Have you heard the term "keeping up with the Joneses"? In a simple sense, it is the tendency we have to compare ourselves to another, then come to the conclusion the stuff the other guy has is something we ought to have, as well. In other words, we "benchmark" ourselves against the social, financial, or physical status of another. If we don't possess what the other guy does, we often come to the conclusion we are somehow inferior to them. Today's "rule" for living addresses such a tendency.
17 “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17 New Living Translation)
I like the way The Message translation puts it: 17 No lusting after your neighbor's house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don't set your heart on anything that is your neighbor's. How many times have we been guilty of "setting our hearts" on what the other guy has or has achieved?
Here's the downfall of keeping up with the Joneses - we find ourselves becoming "consumers" of things, people, position, etc. When we just consume, we are never satisfied with what it is we have. This is the danger set out for us in this rule. We all have the natural tendency to "compare" - another term for this tendency is to benchmark ourselves against another. We do it almost without noticing. Since this is such a "natural" thing for us, we would do well to begin to evaluate just how much this has been affecting our choices.
Did you know social status once depended upon your family name? In times past, the name said it all. Do you realize you have been given a new name in Christ? Your name now says it all! You really don't have to work to achieve status - you already have it!
Today, social status is often defined by consumerism - the material stuff we can accumulate. The danger with this definition of status comes in the insatiable need for more. Things wear out, newer technology comes along, sleeker automobiles drift onto the market, and trendier clothes hit the racks everyday. My head is set whirling just trying to keep up with the names of the new automobiles out on the market today! Heaven knows my wardrobe is far from trendy!
The underlying attitude of heart God is after in this rule is one of contentment. We are given such status by our position in Christ - not the showy kind of status - but the lasting and permanent kind. In Christ, we have all needs met, all fears conquered. We stand as victors. What good does comparing ourselves to another really amount to anyway? In fact, it does just the opposite - it sets us up for giving into the lustful attitude of heart, the wishful thinking of the mind, and the insatiable drive of the eyes.
We will do well to examine our "benchmark" in life. If it is not Christ above all else, we perhaps have drifted into a little of the "keeping up with the Joneses" philosophy of our culture. We need to "re-center" our focus in order to "filter" our wants from our needs. No social status is worth compromising our position in Christ. Nor is it worth compromising our family life, our relationships, or our integrity. This commandment really is for our protection, not for limiting us. It is a reminder to "re-center" whenever our eye is on something other than Christ - we should "want for nothing" when we realize our "status" in him!