Christmas is not a competitive sport

Christmas is fast approaching and many will make the season all about the gifts they have to amass for the family and friends on their lists. Others will focus on the elaborate decorations and colorful lights. Some will find 'alternative' ways to have those 'ugly sweater' parties - perhaps even an 'ugly face mask' party this year in light of the pandemic. Right there in the midst of all the shopping, list checking, celebrations, and decorations, there can emerge this desire to 'keep up' with someone else. The desire to not be 'outdone' by the neighbors in the display of decorations and lights can drive some to place life and limb at risk as they climb ladders, shimmy up trees, and cross dangerously steep rooftops. The endless hours hunting for 'just the right gift' can wear the best shoppers out - even when they are shopping online this year! Whenever we try to 'keep up' or 'one up' somebody, our motives turn from celebration into competition. 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 others. 

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)

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. While the neighbors may not have servants, we do notice when the neighbors have a weekly housekeeper; we may not have oxen and donkey, but we do notice the cars they drive; and we may not notice how much our house needs to be painted until we see the neighbor putting a fresh coat of paint on their home. How many times have we been guilty of "setting our hearts" on what the other guy has or has achieved? The downfall of keeping up with the Joneses is that we find ourselves becoming "consumers" of things, people, position, and even power. When we are just consumers, we are never satisfied with what it is we have.  We all have the natural tendency to "compare" - another term for this tendency is to benchmark ourselves against something or someone. 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 new 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 some form of consumerism - the material or tangible stuff we can accumulate. The danger with this definition of status comes in the insatiable need for more. We want more 'likes' on our social media posts, 'followers' on our websites, and 'star ratings' on our product reviews. 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! Social media likes and followers - you could go insane over that one!

The underlying attitude of heart God wants us to develop and use during this holiday season 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! Just sayin!

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