I don't often read the Message translation of the Bible, but this passage came up in my current Bible study (Mercy Triumphs - James - by Beth Moore) and I thought the Message put it much more pointedly than my usual NASB, here is the entire verse:
“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”
So what is going on here? Why did Paul need to remind us that we are each an original? And how beautiful is that. You - you are an original. And so am I. How wonderful that our creator was so creative as to make us so different! We should celebrate and glorify Him for our [non--sinful] differences rather than picking one another apart.
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.”
Jewish Christians in the early church were arguing that Greek (Gentile, non-Jew) Christians should be circumcised to be in alignment with the Law. Paul is teaching that if adherence to the Law is what saves us then the cross was unnecessary.
This is the same chapter where the fruit of the Spirit is listed. These are the things that set us apart as believers, as children of God filled with the Holy Spirit. We have freedom in Christ. But not to do whatever our sinful natures want, I've been down that road and I admonish you not to go there either:
“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
But freedom to worship, serve, and love in the unique way God made you.
Have you experienced the comparison trap? Likely you've either jailed the creativity and outpouring of the Spirit through your heart for fear that you won't measure up to someone else (or had someone try to do that for you). Or, you've judged someone else because they were serving, worshiping, giving, and loving differently than how you yourself have been called and gifted.
Imagine for a moment where the body of Christ was filled only with people like yourself. Ugh! I don't know about you, but that doesn't make for a very harmonious picture in my mind. So many gaps, so many needs unmet, so many turned away from the Gospel of Christ because my particular flavor is bitter or obnoxious to them.
I've written about comparison before (The Joy Thief), but here it is again. Previously I wrote about it stealing our joy ... and here God is showing me how it locks us up and roots us to the spot. I am learning more about freedom in Christ every day. I have abused that freedom in the past and have over corrected trying to bring myself back around. Instead of continuing to careen across the lanes of life until I lose control and spin out, rollover, and wind up in the ditch ... I'm asking Jesus to take the wheel by searching what God's word says. He shows me where the boundaries are, makes the lane I need to be in light up like freshly painted lines on pavement reflecting in the dark. Looking at the other cars doesn't tell me where I need to be.
The traffic illustration is oversimplified. But really - do you drive down the road looking at other vehicles to determine how to drive? Hopefully we put the key in the ignition with a pretty good idea of how this driving thing works. Unless we have the authority to do so usually we aren't telling others how to drive either. And if we are ... has that been effective? Think about that for a moment.
You are an original. I am an original. Our creative, loving Father made us all unique. Go do that interesting thing He has made you and called you to do.