“Where Eagles Dare”
“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding (2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV).”
For those of us of a “certain age” the recent passing of Glenn Frey, founding member of The Eagles, was a bit sobering. While our nation was embroiled in the war in Vietnam it was Frey’s voice that told us to Take It Easy and sang about A Peaceful Easy Feeling. Perhaps even other generations took notice of his passing as the band’s Greatest Hits 1971-1975 overtook Michael Jackson’s Thriller to become the best-selling album of all-time.1
After the Eagles’ acrimonious break up in 1980 it reformed in 1994 to an enormous reception. In their reunion Frey imposed a new rule that he and vocalist Don Henley were to receive more money than the other three members since those two were the founders and had kept the band relevant through the successes of their solo careers.2 Two of the remaining three were overjoyed at the opportunity, as even a reduce share for one year was far greater than they had earned in the fourteen years since the band dissolved. But guitarist Don Felder accepted these terms only begrudgingly. It wasn’t enough to earn greater money than he could ever make alone; the thought that Frey and Henley had more was more than he could stand and his bitterness led to his ouster from the group.
It isn’t only just rock star egos that can torpedo a group of people. Such covetousness can infect the church also. Christians at Corinth received diverse gifts of the Spirit to be utilized for the benefit of all (1 Corinthians 14:12) but some of them envied other’s particular gifts and caused friction. Ananias and Sapphira donated some of their wealth to others in need but they wanted the esteem given to those who had given all of their proceeds to the needy and lied to get it (Acts 5:1-10). Even the disciples of Jesus lusted for the greatest place at Jesus’s side and disputed with one another for who should receive the honor (Luke 22:24-27).
Each of us have our own race to run and we have been given different gifts, talents, and experiences (Matthew 25:15) for the work that God has given us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We are to run our race, not looking at others but upon Jesus only (Hebrews 12:1-2). So let’s not compare our blessings, gifts, or walks of faith to other individual Christians. “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor (Galatians 6:4).” We are to examine ourselves against the only measure that matters, the word of God. Measuring ourselves against others is wrong on two counts: first we may give ourselves a higher mark than we ought supposing we are superior to another’s faith and deeds or we may grade ourselves poorly by our estimated contrast and despair.
At the heart of such comparisons is covetousness which is cancerous to the soul (Luke 12:15). Some may believe that they should have a position that another is serving within the body. Or perhaps if they only had another’s talents and abilities they could rise to a conspicuous position and have the praise they think they deserve (Galatians 1:10). God has placed each of us where He desires to have us work for Him and to develop as He intends (1 Corinthians 12:18). Each of us have our part to contribute to the whole and in the end we will all receive a crown.
“And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen (Matthew 20:11-16).”