If there’s anything that destroys our joy in life, it’s when we compare our situation to that of others. Comparing leads to envy.
The conversation in our head might go something like this, “Why did he get that promotion and I was overlooked? Why does she get paid this amount when I’m only making this amount?” The bottom line is this: when we compare our situation to someone else’s, we end up discontented.
Jesus told a story in Matthew 20 for everyone who struggles with comparing. The story was about a landowner and some workers he hired for his vineyard. At the end of the day all the workers were paid the same amount, whether they worked 8 hours or 2 hours. When the employees discovered what each was being paid, the landowner had a riot on his hands. Tempers started to flare and the murmur of grumblings grew until there was an uprising of “We got ripped off. This isn’t fair!” (Matthew 20:11-12).
The landowner calmly replied, “Friends, I am not being unfair to you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” Ouch!
God has the right to distribute gifts or blessings as He pleases. Here’s the kicker! God doesn’t measure out His gifts equally. I don’t understand why. I simply know it’s true. He has the right, just like the landowner, to give what He desires.
In order to live free from envy, we must stop comparing and change the recipe in our heads because the truth is:
Comparing is a recipe for disaster!
Here’s a new recipe for you to cook up some contentment in your life.
Ingredient #1 – One Heaping Cup of Worship
Worship the Giver of the gifts, not the gifts themselves. God’s gifts to us are an expression of His grace, but they are never to be worshipped. When we begin to place extremely high value on those gifts, we are in danger of making them into idols. “We have different gifts according to the grace given us” (Romans 12:6). The point is, it’s up to God who gets what.
Ingredient #2 – One-Half Cup of Positive and True Self-Talk
Whenever I am tempted to measure how I compare with others, I remind myself of the truth that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). God designed me with intention, and the more I tell myself this truth, the more it makes its way down into my heart.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God designed and created you uniquely. There is no one like you. You have a specific design, story, and calling. Ya know what? You don’t have to be the best at everything. Shocking I know! There will always be others who are better than you at something or who enjoy more success than you in some area.
Ingredient #3 – More Than a Pinch of Gratitude
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is the greatest step I can take to guard against envy. The more I give thanks for the gifts God gives me, the more He fills my life with joy. The more I give thanks for my home, the less I’ll covet the homes of others. The more I give thanks for the opportunities in my life, the less I’ll crave the opportunities He opens for others.
Ingredient #4 – A Tablespoon of Rejoicing When Others Rejoice
I can almost guarantee you won’t feel like rejoicing when others receive a larger bonus than you, or when God blesses a friend with a baby and you’re infertile, or when your friend’s child receives honors in school and your child needs to receive special help. But I believe if you consistently choose to rejoice with others, it gets easier to do, even for hard things. We choose with our minds and trust that our feelings will follow. Paul wrote that we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).
Ingredient #5 – A Generous Portion of the Holy Spirit
I have found that no matter how great my intentions are about changing and being less envious, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns unless I continually ask the Holy Spirit to change me. Ultimately, He is the greatest change agent we have. He is like the baking soda in a recipe that causes the cake or cookies to rise. He is more than willing to change us as we cooperate with Him. Jesus said the reason He would leave His Spirit is so that we would not have to be responsible for our own spiritual transformation. He promised that the Holy Spirit would be our teacher and our guide in our journey to be more like Jesus (John 14:25-26).
Question: What has helped curb your tendency to compare and your temptation to envy others? Share your ideas because they might help another!