Contentment or Comparison? Which Way to Live

Roter und Grüner ApfelOn Sunday we looked at the issue of comparison that runs throughout so many of our relationships. We share with a parent friend that our child is reading Dr. Seuss and they respond with, “That’s great my little Johnny loved reading Dr. Seuss…last year”.  And we feel like our kids are behind.

This happens all over in sorts of relationships. We base whether we are doing okay, on whether we are keeping up with those around us. Our lives end up being driven then by those around us. They set our pace, and they set our expectations.

Solomon says this is dumb. Well technically he says it’s meaningless, but I think he would also say it’s dumb, silly, and not helpful. He writes this: “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless–like chasing the wind.”

He essentially is saying comparison drives us forward, but it’s meaningless. It doesn’t get us anywhere and leaves us empty, and grasping.

And this is Solomon that won at the comparison game. He was the wealthiest, smartest, most powerful person around. When he compared himself with anyone, he always won. And so even though he won the comparison game, he says it won’t get you anywhere. It will drive you into the ground. It’s meaningless.

So that’s what we looked at on Sunday.

Thankfully though Solomon wasn’t done. He didn’t just say don’t live with comparison, he gave us another way to live. He says one verse later: “And yet it is better to have one handful with quietness, than two handfuls with hard work and chasing after the wind.”

His point is this: it is better to live with contentment (one handful) than comparison (two handfuls and grasping for more). Contentment is better than comparison every time.

And this is true, learning to be content is the most freeing thing. And it is something we need to learn, because we are taught to compare and compete. But Solomon, the wisest person, says contentment is far better.

So to land this on Sunday we asked one question: are there any areas of our lives that comparison is leading rather than contentment?

  • Is comparison or contentment driving our career?
  • Is comparison or contentment driving our parenting?
  • Is comparison or contentment driving our finances?
  • Is comparison or contentment driving our lives?

And I think this is a question worth reflecting on and acting on. The rat race, of comparison and competition, just makes us frantic. Contentment makes us whole.

So what can you be grateful and content with today? And maybe if we just start with that question every day we can learn to live different.

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Contentment is always better than comparison.

Take Aways…

  • Comparison is a trap we get stuck in.
  • Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless–like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4
  • We are motivated not by what is best for us, but by what everyone else does.
  • We are driven not from real need but from comparison.
  • “Fools fold their idle hands,
leading them to ruin.” Ecclesiastes 4:5
  • “Better to have one handful with quietness
 than two handfuls with hard work 
and chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6
  • We need to let contentment shape our lives, rather than comparison.
  • Am I content or comparing?
  • When our focus is on what we don’t have, we will always feel empty.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Has comparison ever driven you to do something you regret? What was it? Which of the examples Andrew shared about comparison resonated or related to you? How much has comparison been driving your relationship in the past few months? In terms of your family, work, friends, and finances is contentment or comparison the main driving force? What do you have that you can be grateful and content with? Where do you need to rid yourself of comparison? Who can help you with that? How can you do that?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Talk to you kids about today’s topic. Teach them that what matters is being content. Ask them how they might compare themselves or their toys with others? Ask them what is something they can be content with? Share with them some of the things you are content and happy with. Start to make that rhythm this week doing it at least once a week.

Challenge for this Week: This week live with contentment.

2 thoughts on “Contentment or Comparison? Which Way to Live

  1. Where does people of inspiration fall into this? We could look at a runner and feel envy that their in shape and we’re not or they could inspire us to get in shape as well. I guess it’s how you look at it.


  2. Hey Byron – I loved your question yesterday, and I thought a lot about it. Because you are right inspiration is a beautiful and a good thing. I guess what I kind of came away with is who is setting our expectations, or our calling, or our comparisons? So when we let others around us set our expectations, desires, and comparisons – that’s dangerous. When we let God be the one to set our calling, expectations, and desires that’s a good thing. And he might use someone else’s life to remind us of our calling (inspiration), and to urge us forward. I don’t know if that’s helpful or not but its something I’ve been thinking a lot more since yesterday!


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