Luke 18:9-14 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
I don’t know about you, but too often my thoughts and prayers look more like those of that Pharisee than the tax collector. Not those exact words – I don’t thank God in a prayer that I am not like those people. But, let’s face it, we all probably think that way at least a little bit. Maybe it sounds like “I messed up, but I’m not that messed up.” I have a friend who, when she has a parenting fail, says “We’re not the worst parents in the world because…meth”. While a phrase like this might be useful to keep you from going into a death spiral of self-loathing, it can’t be the only measurement you use. (I know it isn’t the only measurement this friend uses.)
2 Corinthians 10:12 …But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
Galatians 6:4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.
When I measure myself against what I see in other people – I am running the wrong race. This isn’t that movie “Without A Paddle” – you know, where the guy says “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.” https://youtu.be/um3tlxmK7Cg?t=7 I am not running away from my sins, but running to my God. So, my measurement isn’t about who is behind me, or even who is in front of me, but in how close I am to God and how much I am obeying what He asks of me. Me, specifically.
Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
I can’t take any comfort from not committing that person’s sins if I have committed my own sins. (And the Bible says we have all sinned.) It isn’t about who is a worse sinner, and who is less of a sinner. We’re all sinners here. We’re all bear food. Not being bear food isn’t about outrunning each other – it isn’t about other people at all. It is about getting closer to God, by accepting and obeying Jesus, so He can save us from the bear of our sins.