Comparing Ourselves to Others
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"[You] have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants." (Ruth 2:13)
For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. (2 Cor. 10:12)
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Far from her native Moab, Ruth knew she was a fish out of water among the maidservants of Boaz. Her dress, her dialect, her background, her heritage--everything about her marked her as an outsider, someone who didn't really "fit in" among her new neighbors. In fact, were it not for the wise counsel of her mother-in-law, Naomi, Ruth would have had no future at all in Israel. She had every reason to feel lonely and dejected in this alien environment.
Paul was not like the other apostles. He did not have the privilege of having personally lived and worked with Jesus for several years. Instead, he had spent several years as a persecutor of the church, an incredibly stupid career move that he regretted for the rest of his life. Apparently he was not a polished speaker either (2 Cor. 10:10), which meant he couldn’t compete with the likes of Apollos. With these deficiencies, it would have been easy for Paul to succumb to the temptations of envy, discouragement, even bitterness.
Both of these characters were hopelessly outclassed by their contemporaries--yet both made remarkable contributions to God's plan. Ruth may have been "different," but she embraced the God of Israel with a passion, and that faith prepared her to serve her adopted nation in a way that no one could have foreseen, as a forbearer of the Messiah. Whatever his shortcomings, Paul knew that he was gifted in a different way, and he was content with using those gifts to the best of his ability. He possessed an unlikely combination of blue-color work ethic and cosmopolitan vision that allowed him to circulate with ease in almost any social circle--the perfect candidate for reaching the Gentiles with the gospel. He was also a prolific writer whose compositions comprise a major portion of our New Testament.
God can do some amazing things with the most unlikely material. That's why we should never judge our own worth by comparing ourselves to the talents and achievements of others. God made us who we are for a reason, and all He expects of us is what we can do with what He has given us.
Do your best, and let God worry about what others are doing.