Do not let your heart envy sinners [who live godless lives and have no hope of salvation], But [continue to] live in the [reverent, worshipful] fear of the Lord day by day.
Comparison consumes our gazes and steals our souls. When we look at what others have and what they have achieved, it’s easy for us to see how we stack up. If we’ve got more and done more than others, we feel great about ourselves, but if we’re coming up short, we get discouraged or we’re driven to get ahead. Either way, we’ve lost our focus.
Ultimately, we live for an audience of One. God is the only One who is worthy of our affections and allegiance. When we compare ourselves with others, we quickly become consumed with pride or envy, and our passion for Christ quickly fades.
Solomon tells us that passion is a choice. He said, “Don’t let your heart envy sinners.” Envy doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of choosing to look, to compare, and to desire more than we have so we can look better than we do. To make the choice for godly passion, we need to value God’s purposes more than getting ahead of others, and we need to care more about people’s souls (including our own) than cars, clothes, and vacations.
As our hearts grasp the wonder, the majesty, and the mystery of knowing and following Christ, we realize that nothing else compares to Him. As long as we live in this world, the choice to focus on Him is never easy. But focus is a product of habit, Abe we can develop the habit of letting our minds and hearts soak up the riches of God instead of comparing the riches of this world.
The price of greatness is responsibility.
Far too often our view of life is horizontal rather than vertical. We spend more time looking around us and taking note of what everyone else is having or doing in this world. It’s easy to forget that we are just passing through as pilgrims on a journey and that what waits us is beyond compare.
If we stop for a moment and think about why we are compelled to compare ourselves with others, it’s usually because we don’t know who we are and whose we are. In previous devotions we discussed the idea that each of us have been uniquely and wonderfully made by God in the exact image of His design. If that’s the case, and according to God’s Word it is, then we have no need to want to be anything except what God has made us to be.
To create envy, jealousy and comparison, the devil works make us feel less than others. It is from our feelings of not measuring up or being accepted as we are that drives us to a horizontal view. And yet everything that we feel we lack is only in this life.
Abraham, the friend of God shows us how it works. As he and his nephew Lot were traveling together, their herdsmen began to quarrel over grazing. In the custom of the day, Abraham being the elder had the right to choose first and Lot would have to settle for what was left. Because Abraham’s trust and identity was from God, he had no feeling of being threatened or any need to assert his position.
“But Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. Now the land was not able to support them [that is, sustain all their grazing and water needs] while they lived near one another, for their possessions were too great for them to stay together. And there was strife and quarreling between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were living in the land at that same time [making grazing of the livestock difficult]. So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife and disagreement between you and me, nor between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, because we are relatives. Is not the entire land before you? Please separate [yourself] from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or if you choose the right, then I will go to the left.”
Do you see that when your confidence is in God you have no need to push to be at the top? As you continue to read the story of Abraham you will find that God blessed him wherever he went. It doesn’t matter whether you have the most earthly power, or position. It doesn’t matter whether you have enormous wealth or whether you’re just getting by. It doesn’t matter if you’re the most popular person or whether you feel that no one notices you at all. In any case it’s impossible to change places with anyone else and to spend your life wanting what they may have or may be is a futile waste of time. That approach fails to recognize the truth that every person is the creative work of God. Sometimes we fail to reach the potential that God sets before us because we’re so focused on what we have in comparison to others.
In the parable of talents, you will notice that each of the three received different amounts of talents. They weren’t held accountable for what the others had only how they used what they were given. When we view life from the eternal view, we will begin to see that what we gain with eternal things is the only real treasures and accomplishments.
Whatever we may accumulate, we will leave it behind for others. The greatest legacy we could leave behind is the path to eternal life for those coming behind us to follow. Jesus was clear when He invited us to lay up treasure in heaven rather than trying to outdo our neighbor here in this life.
When you begin to look vertical you will see that you truly are blessed. To know that you’re a child of God is the greatest treasure to have. When you begin to look vertical you can rejoice when others are blessed around you for you know that your Father won’t forget you in your time of need. You can be glad to know those who are more popular, more attractive, more gifted and more successful because you know that your Father has given and will give you all that He can trust you with.
So let up off the accelerator and enjoy the ride. It doesn’t matter who’s first. What matters is that we cross the finish line. And everyone who crosses that line will rejoice in the presence of God and loved ones. That’s the true success.
Dr. John Thompson