Envy Kills Contentment
Ever since we remodeled our house last year, I have been wanting a short bookcase for my bedroom. It needed to be the right height to fit under the shoulder-height window. Finally, today my wonderful husband found a three-shelf cherry wood bookcase at a garage sale for only $40! It fits perfectly in the space where I wanted to put it.
I love books, and usually am part way through several books at any one time. Most of the books I buy these days are Christian fiction, inspirational, or theological books. I started filling up the new bookcase before dinner, and I am not sure it is going to have enough shelf space for all the books I want to put on it. I may have to make some choices about what I put in it and what stays in the office bookcase.
Although I love my books, if someone told me I had to give up all of my books but one the choice would be easy. I would keep just my NIV Study Bible. The Bible is my favorite book, and this particular Bible was a gift from my husband when I was baptized. It has many of my favorite passages underlined. The Bible is one of the few books I could read over and over and find something new each time.
The many parables that Jesus told that are recorded in the Gospels provide great wisdom for us today. One of my favorites is the parable of the workers in the vineyard, recorded in Matthew 20:1-16. In this parable, the landowner hires workers throughout the day. We learn that he agrees to pay the first workers a denarius for a days work, the proceeds to hire others right up until one hour before the end of the work day.
The owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
I like this parable because of its great practical application. So often we compare what we have to what others have. It’s easy to be envious or jealous of those who have more material possessions, especially if we feel like we have worked harder than they have. We somehow think we all should be treated the same. When someone else receives an advantage, we cry foul and complain that life is not fair. But God did not ever promise we would all be treated equally. We came into this world with nothing and we are entitled to nothing. And yet God promises we will be given what we need, and that should be enough for us.
The men in this parable who came to work early in the morning thought that the payment of a denarius was fair at the time they were hired and they were content to work a full day for that pay. It was only when they compared their situation to that of the workers who started later in the day that they became disgruntled and unhappy. By comparing themselves to others, they essentially robbed themselves of one of the best gifts God has to offer – contentment and peace.
A new Johnny Cash CD was recently released, and it includes a great old song called “A Satisfied Mind.” The lyrics make this point perfectly:
How many times have
You heard someone say
If I had his money
I could do things my way
But little they know
That it’s so hard to find
One rich man in ten
With a satisfied mind
Money can’t buy back
Your youth when you’re old
Or a friend when you’re lonely
Or a love that’s grown cold
The wealthiest person
Is a pauper at times
Compared to the man
With a satisfied mind
Is there someone you are comparing yourself today and feeling like life is unfair? I suggest you take the other person’s situation out of the equation. Ask yourself if you have what you need. Has God treated you fairly and provided for your needs? Focus on what you have, not what others have that you don’t, and you will gain contentment and peace, and a satisfied mind.
This was exactly what we heard yesterday in church..We need to look at our lives and see whether God has blessed us enough and not compare with what others have and don’t have..Because it is when you look around you feel that life is unfair…Our God know what is best for each one of us…Thank you for that great thought.
I liked this, and I have always liked that parable. The Lord’s ways are so much higher than ours, and they are always fair. I pray that I will rest in this knowledge more.