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Improper Comparisons

Barney Colson was an elder for University City congregation in Gainesville, Florida, for thirty-three years until his death in 1998. During World War II, at the age of twenty-one, Barney Colson was a skipper of an amphibious ship in the South Pacific. His and three other ships had unloaded their cargo on an island near the end of the day. They backed away from the shore and dropped anchor as the sun was setting. An anchor watch was assigned to make sure the ships did not drift. Everyone else went to sleep. When morning light came, all four ships were within sight of one another with about a quarter of a mile of spacing for safety. When Colson questioned the sailor on anchor watch, the sailor pointed to each of the ships nearby. But then Colson asked him: "Where is the island?"

During the night, even with the limited light available on the dark ocean, the sailor on watch had been able to discern the nearby ships. What he did not realize was that all four ships had drug their anchors and were drifting together. They drifted over twenty miles, so that the island was completely out of sight over the horizon the next morning. By comparing themselves with one another, instead of the fixed point of the island, they had drifted far away while thinking they were securely anchored. When we compare ourselves with one another we can be deceived into thinking we are doing well, even when we are far away from where we should be.

Paul warned against such comparisons: "For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." (2 Cor. 10:12). If we are going to compare ourselves with others, we need to pick the right standard. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt. 5:48; cf. 1 Pet. 1:15-16). Beware of improper comparisons with an inadequate standard.

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

“... imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb. 6:12)

“Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.” (3 John 1:11)

- Joel Stephen Williams


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