Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 3:9-20 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: There’s always going to be someone who is smarter than you. There’s always going to be someone who is funnier than you. There’s always going to be someone who is better looking than you. There’s always going to be someone who makes more money than you. There’s always going to someone who is faster than you, braver than you, wiser than you, happier than you . . . you get the picture.
We are constantly comparing ourselves with other people—and this can be both a blessing and a curse. As we grow up, we are taught to look to older people as models for our own behavior. We learn to be better authors, artists, teachers, CEOs, nurses, parents, and friends, by observing those who we believe do these things really well and trying to see how we stack up in comparison. But comparing ourselves can also be a curse because it reminds us that we will never be “the best.” Even those who win Olympic gold medals are only “the best” for a finite amount of time before advancing age and flagging energy take over—or someone faster and stronger breaks the records they held at the prime of life.
In a way, Paul reminds us of this reality as well. “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin . . . ” (Romans 3:9). There may be people who look like they have it more together than you in their spiritual department. Maybe they have volumes of prayer journals on their bookshelves, read the Daily Walk every day, and listen to the podcast—or maybe they just have a way of making you feel like there is so much more you could and should be doing when it comes to your walk with Jesus.
Paul gives us some space to breathe, reminding us that no one is better or worse off than anyone else. This is a pass/fail kind of situation, and, unfortunately, we have all failed. Only Jesus can move us out of the category of failure. In no way does this mean we should neglect to improve our lives or the lives of those around us. If anything, it suggests that our hearts may grow compassionate for one another since we know that each and every one of us has faults, has messed up big time, small time, and everywhere in-between time, and that all of us are in need of God’s grace.
Recalibrate: Do you often feel worse off or better off compared to most Christians? How does comparing yourself to others affect your relationship with Jesus?
Respond: Ask God to show you the ways He has given you grace and love in your weakest and worst times.
Research: How have technology and social media changed how we compare ourselves to others?
Remember: “There is no one without sin. None! There is no one who understands. There is no one who looks to God for help. All have turned away. Together everyone has become evil. None of them does anything good” (Romans 3:10-12, ICB).
Jessyka Albert is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church, leading Live Wonder (ages 0-3), Live Adventure (ages 4-11), and Live Purpose (ages 12-17), along with their supporting ministries. She grew up in Washington State and has a degree in theology from Union College in Lincoln, NE. Jessyka has served in various areas of ministry, but her passion for discipling kids has taken center stage in her career.
The Bible says, in our text for this week, that we are all the same. Point to your eyes and then to your child’s eyes. Your nose, then theirs. Their ears, then yours. Their mouth, then yours. Play this game all week, asking if they can see Nanna’s eyes or Daddy’s nose, and saying each time, “Look at our eyes/nose/hands; they are the same. Our ears are the same. Our hands are the same. Our hearts are the same." Finish by holding your little one’s hands or cuddling them close and telling them how much you love them. Sing “Jesus Loves Me” or check out this video with your little child.
Our text for this week says a lot of stuff that I don’t like to hear said about anyone. Worse yet, these words describe everyone. Paul uses parts of the books of Psalms and Galatians and Isaiah to say how we are all the same under the law. What do you think Paul is talking about when he says “the law?”
I recently ran a race with a group of friends. We were all together at the starting line, but as soon as the race started, all the racers went at their own pace. Some people went through each obstacle with ease. Others took longer and struggled more. We can parallel this experience to our walk with Christ. We all start together and, as we grow in our walk with Christ, we may advance at different rates and speeds. Those of us who are “faster” or “stronger” may fall into the trap of believing that we are better than those behind us. But are we actually better? We are all participants in the exact same race together. Think about people you’ve considered “less than” because you perceived them as being behind you. God reminds us that we are all sinful in nature. Consider this as we continue to explore the text this week.