In the 1987 film Wall Street, Bud Fox is a young stockbroker desperate to succeed. He finds a mentor and hero in Gordon Gekko, an unscrupulous corporate raider, and uses Gekko to measure himself and his job performance. Although Bud becomes very wealthy, ultimately he is deceived and betrayed by his idol and convicted of insider trading.
The Dangers of a Human Measuring Stick
Like many of us, Bud measured himself and his job performance by another person. He held up Gekko as his standard to emulate – a person who was successful, affluent, and powerful. But in positioning Gekko as his measuring stick, Bud opened himself up to risks. In the same way, if we measure ourselves against others we face plenty of dangers too.
Danger #1: False expectations. Comparison sets both of you up for failure. He can’t fulfill your expectations. You can’t be exactly like him. Your unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment and even disillusionment.
Danger #2: Pride. By comparing yourself to another you set her on a pedestal. That can tempt both of you to pride: she as the object of your admiration and you to meet or exceed her standard.
Danger #3: Idolatry. Positioning another person as your measuring stick bypasses God altogether.
Is it wrong to simply admire professional colleagues and personal friends? No. Is it wrong to learn from their expertise? Of course not. Admiration is appreciation – not competition.
God’s Customized Measuring Stick
God’s measuring stick is not horizontal, comparing you with others. Instead, He gives each of us a unique, personalized mix of strengths, making comparison moot. How are you using the special strengths He has given you? How are you fulfilling His call on your life? How are you allowing Christ to transform you for the Kingdom? Those are God’s tools of measurement – not jut for your job performance, but for how you live your life.
Put another way, Bud Fox would have done well to maximize Bud Fox’s uniqueness – and not try to measure himself against Gordon Gekko. Likewise, Christ-followers would do well to measure themselves by Christ’s work in us … not by comparing themselves with the guy in the next cubicle.