I grew up lower lower middle class. My mom doesn’t like for me to say poor. But let’s just say there weren’t any extras. After my parents divorced, it was even tighter. However, mom always admonished me against trying to keep up with the Joneses.
I don’t know who started that saying, “Keeping Up with the Joneses,” but it’s become even more and more accurate as the decades fly by. Everyone is trying to not just keep up with the guy or girl next door, but surpass them. Your car has leather, well mine has heated seats and a fancy sound system. Your shoes are suede, well mine are designer suede with embossed stitching. Your husband manages a company, well my husband owns a company. Your kids started talking at 10 months, well mine knew Latin at 11 months.
Sound all too familiar? I like to think that I’m above all this, but I’m not. We’re not very tech savvy so we don’t own an i-anything and we don’t drive Mercedes and we don’t own a half a million dollar house but I’ve found that I struggle (aka envy) in more abstract areas. Our little neighbor friend, a month younger than the kids, stopped by to say hello, and say hello he did! He waved and said hi and bye and mommy and daddy and all sorts of other stuff. My genius children stared back – I picked up their little hands to get them to wave & the second I let go they fell limp at their sides. I panicked – oh no, my children aren’t advancing quickly enough, aggghhhh, help, we’re falling behind. I wrote about how I went to a barbecue alone because my husband was out of town and then stared enviously at all the other wives accompanied by their husbands. THEIR husbands made it but mine travels.
Oh, the green eyed monster. It may not be material things that you’re after, but I would hazard a guess that the other things are more insidious. And it’s nothing new – these cravings have been worming their way into peoples’ hearts and minds since the beginning of time. That’s why so many of the commandments in Exodus deal with wanting other people’s stuff. Beyond the obvious one, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house….nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s,” are others: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The translation of this in The Message says simply, “No other gods, only me.” Exodus 20 And all of this envy, this lusting after things or people or situations, it’s just saying I want something other than God – God’s not enough.
But as I was struggling with this last week, I had to remind myself that everything is not as it appears. Just as a bunch of crazy people think I’m supermom, which I think we can all agree couldn’t be further from the truth, they aren’t the Joneses either. Those children outtalking my kids may not run as fast or have the same sense of humor or be able to lift large objects with Hulk-like strength 🙂 And those husbands walking into the barbecue may be in town but they may party at night with their buddies or play on the computer at all hours or struggle with pornography or spend all the family money.
That’s when it hit me – I am the Joneses. I am married to a wonderful man who loves me. I have three children who are the most fun little people I’ve ever met. I have a great job and friends and parents.
You are the Joneses too though. Stop looking at the green grass next door and check out the bounty in your backyard. If you’re single and lusting after that marriage you see, then know that there’s a woman trapped in a loveless or abusive marriage that’s lusting after your singledom and the first chances you still have ahead of you. If you’re married and lusting after that fun single life, know that there’s a single person who would love to come home after work to a house with a husband or children. If you want kids and don’t have them, then know that there’s a mom crying because the cops told her son was just jailed for drug use. If you have kids and are stressed out by finances or disabilities, know there is a couple that is undergoing their third IVF treatment with their hearts breaking because they can’t get pregnant. That doesn’t make your situation less hard. It just means that Mr. Jones and Ms. Jones don’t have it any easier.
You are the Joneses. I am the Joneses. If we could just get on board with being the Joneses, maybe we would be transformed and spend our time thanking God for his abundant blessings instead of “coveting our neighbor’s house….”
Psalm 68 – Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the LORD. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling….When you, God, went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel. You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance. Your people settled in it, and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.
Psalm 49 -Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them.
2 Corinthians 9 – And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.