Someone once told me, “The reason the grass is greener on the other side of the fence is that they painted it.” Once when I was surfing at a place called the Cove, in Palos Verdes California. A movie company had been there a couple of days earlier and had actually painted the grass green for shot they were filming. The grass may be greener, but so what?
You’ll never innovate if you covet what another person has—at best you’ll seek to copy them, losing a portion of your identity along the way.
Innovation starts with accepting and revelling in what God has already supplied.
Content in Your Identity
I was just 8 years old when Little League baseball first came to my neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. More than 350 kids tried out for the first teams. Two were not chosen. I went home feeling pretty bad about myself as I was one of the two rejects. However, that summer saw another first in my neighborhood—someone invented a bookmobile. I’m pretty convinced that my clumsiness and poor showing in sports was orchestrated by God as I became a vapid reader that summer. My reading habits have always contributed to the person and roles God intended for me. Today, I’m thankful I never made the cut in baseball.
Can you say you are content with “Who I am, how I’m made and what I possess?” Or do you spend time coveting whatever the guy down the street has?
How do you answer these questions: “What is my spiritual niche? What am I doing that only I can do? What is my ministry from the Lord? Am I being loyal to it? In what way is my life precious to Jesus?”
Do you understand that what you have is better for you than whatever the next person has and what they have might actually be harmful for you. Also, what you have probably wouldn’t do them much good. I began pastoring in a California beach town where my wife and I knew no one. We inherited a tiny building and invested our life savings to get the church off the ground. But two weeks before planting we heard Chuck Smith talk about how he structured and taught a church of 2,000-plus mostly hippies in a building that fit 350 people. I soon found myself a wannabe surfer surrounded by surfers and hippies overcrowding that tiny building. And, overcrowded buildings and a pastor’s sacrifice somehow stoked enthusiasm. The things we apparently lacked became some of our strong points. We learned that creativity comes from appreciating whatever God decided was best for us.
Covetousness Is Deceptive
Jesus said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own,” Luke 12:15 NLT. It’s scary when I hear pastors bragging about numbers of people, budgets and especially when they get off into talking about “trophy members.” These are the people who own the “biggest…” or manage the “most famous…” or the “first ever…”
I’ve sometimes caught myself asking God why he doesn’t send those kind of people to churches I’ve led only to realize that he probably has but it was more important for us to treat everyone the same without identifying some people as more important than others. And, I’ve come to see any kind of bragging as an admission of personal insecurity.
What We Covet Won’t Last
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “…we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever,” 2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT.
Coveting and envy sap your strength. You get into competition you cannot win—I found myself in competition with the 1,800 guys over the shirts they possessed. Having grown up without a lot of money, clothing styles became too big a deal to me. As soon as I got a job I began collecting shirts. One overstuffed closet later I realized that it would be impossible to collect every shirt that I coveted when I saw someone else wearing it—a very good lesson.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a car if you don’t have one, or house that you hope to purchase someday. The problem comes when we covet something simply because someone else has it. In the end, it’s all going to burn and you’re going to face the Lord who will be concerned with whether or not you accomplish his purposes for your life. I promise you he doesn’t care whether you have more than the next person. He will meet our needs, but is not interested in stroking our egos.
If you do manage to obtain whatever you’ve coveted it’s liable to turn to sawdust in your mouth. Just ask King David how happy he was after he spent that first night with the wife of his friend Uriah.
The comparison game is a form of covetousness—even when we compare ourselves to ourselves… Paul warned the Corinthians about pretentious leaders who “…tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” 2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT
Those people apparently used self comparison as a way to lower the bar of excellence, but we often do the same thing a little differently. We compare what we have to whatever we had in another phase of life. I loved pastoring the churches that I led but comparing what I do now to what I did then is a losing game. You lose by comparing yourself this year to yourself last year. The comparison game only leads to pride or unhappiness and covetousness.
Peaceful Heart & Healthy Body
We all have to find our niche in life and spiritually we find it when we engage our calling admitting that it is a gift from God. Beyond that we need to exhibit loyalty to that calling, to count our lives precious in fulfilling of that ministry. The result is looking in the mirror at a person it’s easy to live with. Covetousness breeds anxiety, jealously and disappointment. Innovation comes to healthy people who are free to embrace God’s creative impulse in their lives. There is truth in the saying, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” Proverbs 14:30 NIV.”
I remember hearing a friend talk about someone coveting another person’s job. They said, “When they finally got to sit on the throne, they found out it was only a folding chair and they had to set it up themselves. What a bummer.”
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