MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN, BROWNSVILLE, TX
ILL. I have a friend who says that he can remember going to church with his parents when he was a little boy. Now that isn’t unusual, except that his family didn’t really go to church all that often. So he has some rather vivid memories of the few times they did go, such as Christmas & Easter.
Looking back, he believes that his parents probably had a rather guilty conscience about it all. Because of that their after church conversation usually went something like this: "Did you see Mrs. So-&-so? I bet the only reason she went to church today was to show off her new fur coat." Or, "Did you see Sam? I’m sure he was there because he’s trying to drum up customers for his new business."
You see, they were criticizing others in order to make themselves look better in comparison. But the Bible tells us not to do that.
Galatians 6:3-5 says, "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else. . ."
PROP. Don’t compare ourselves with others? Why would the Bible say that?
I. COMPARING OURSELVES TO OTHERS OFTEN LEADS TO ENVY & COVETOUSNESS
A. Well, one reason is that comparing ourselves to others often leads to dissatisfaction, envy & covetousness.
The 10th Commandment says, "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" [Exodus 20:17]. God’s Law says we are not to covet.
ILL. In the very beginning of sin there was covetousness. Satan was an archangel of God & should have been satisfied. But he started comparing himself with God, & became obsessed with getting more of God’s glory & power. Finally he was kicked out of heaven, & became the prince of the darkness of this world. Now he is trying to draw all of us into his evil kingdom.
Satan slithered through the grass of Eden to Eve & said, "If you’ll eat that fruit you’ll be as wise as God." Eve had never compared herself with anyone else before. But the moment she started comparing she became dissatisfied with what God had made her to be, & wanted something more.
ILL. Lot wanted more. So he settled in Sodom. Joseph’s brothers wanted more attention, so they sold him into slavery. And as you go through the O.T. & the N.T. you’ll find that pattern is always there. When you compare, you often become dissatisfied & obsessed with wanting more.
ILL. It still happens today. A salesman makes $125,000 a year. But that is not enough. So when it is time to fill out his expense voucher & hand it in at the end of the week, he adds a little here & a little there. Pretty soon he is putting an extra $100 or so a week into his pocket that he really didn’t spend. But he wants more.
ILL. A few years ago our state began a lottery, & since then it has been in the news almost every day. People are spending millions of dollars on the Texas Lottery. TV & newspapers have featured the big winners - brand new millionaires just because they bought the winning ticket. So more & more people are buying lottery tickets, & new features are being added regularly.
But somehow, the promised financial windfall for our schools has not materialized, & calls to Gamblers Anonymous have increased more than 100-fold. And more & more poor people are spending their money for lottery tickets.
ILL. An editorial cartoon in a morning newspaper recently showed a mom & dad seated at the table with their two children. The table was set, but there was no food on the platter, only a pile of scratched-out lottery tickets. And mom was saying, "For dinner this evening we’re having lottery tickets because dad spent all the grocery money buying lottery tickets."
B. Now why do people do things like that? Because they’re dissatisfied with what God has provided, & they’re obsessed with wanting more. The Bible calls that "covetousness."
II. COMPARING OURSELVES TO OTHERS CAN LEAD TO FALSE ASSUMPTIONS
A. Now the second thing that comparing ourselves to others does is this, it leads us to the false assumption that: "I could really be happy if. . ." & you fill in the blanks.
"I could really be happy if I had that new house." "I could really be happy if I had a new boat." "I could really be happy if my husband wasn’t such a slob." "I could really be happy if I had more money."
Now the Bible says that the "love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." And it can get us into all kinds of trouble.
ILL. Ananias & Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit because of their love for money. The Rich Young Ruler rejected Jesus because of his love for money. The rich man neglected Lazarus because of his love for money. And Judas sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver, just because of the love of money.
B. Turn with me now to Ecclesiastes 5. I want to read a few verses that deal with the subject of money. These verses teach us 6 things about wanting more & saying to ourselves, "If I could only have this, I would really be happy."
1. These words in Ecclesiastes were written by Solomon, one of the richest & wisest men who ever lived. Listen to vs. 10: "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless." Now what is he saying?
He’s saying, "The first thing you learn about money is this: you never have enough." I have a theory that expenses expand in keeping with your income. However much you make, you’ll always find something to spend it on. And there will never be enough.
2. Vs. 11 says, "As goods increase, so do those who consume them." In other words, "When you get money, here come the parasites, wanting some of it." You discover friends & relatives you didn’t even know you had. Solomon says, "Parasites always come to consume whatever you have."
3. The third thing he says is in vs. 12. "The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep."
Now here is what Solomon is saying, "If you’re a laboring man punching a time clock at the factory, when you punch out at night & go home, you can sleep because you left your work at the factory. But if you’re a rich man, & have lots of money, then your abundance of wealth will not permit you to sleep." Anxiety comes & you worry about it all the time.
ILL. A friend of mine bought two new lawn mowers last year. His old mower finally gave up the ghost. So he bought a new one.
When he was shopping for lawn mowers he started at the top of the list. He looked at the best lawn mowers you can buy, with all the whistles & bells. But he finally worked his way down the list, & ended up buying a Montgomery-Ward Mulching mower for $180. He took it home & used it, but never did like it because it was just too much work pushing that mulching mower.
Then his son’s lawn mower broke down & he quickly gave his new mower to his son. Of course, that made it necessary for him to go shopping once again.
He started at the top of the list again. He looked at all those expensive mowers, & finally, when he got part way down, he said, "I’m 55 years old, & I’ve never had a self-propelled mower in all my life." So he bought a Honda. It is self-propelled. It starts on the first pull. It will mulch or it will bag, & you can even pop wheelies with it.
He says that never in his life has he looked forward to mowing the lawn like he does today. He can hardly wait for lawn mowing day to come around. He says, "This is some kind of mower."
As he was writing the check for the mower, the salesperson said, "Now I need to warn you about something. People steal Honda mowers. We’ve had people who have bought them who have come back & said, `We were just mowing the yard & left our mower unattended & went back into the house to get a bag for the clippings. When we came back our mower was gone.’ So we recommend that you never leave it unattended. And never leave your garage door open because people will steal your Honda mower right out of the garage."
And the week he bought it, he saw his friend Mickey at a social & Mickey said, "Guess what?" He said, "What, Mickey?" Mickey said, "Just last week someone came into my back yard & stole my Honda lawn mower."
So now my friend is paranoid about his lawn mower. He says that he lies awake at night, worrying about his Honda mower. He’s afraid to leave his garage door open, & never ever leaves his mower unattended.
That’s exactly what Solomon is saying. If you don’t have anything you can go home & sleep like a baby. But if you have a Honda lawn mower, you’ll never sleep again. Now that’s anxiety!
4. Then he says in vs. 13 that money is harmful. He says: "I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner."
ILL. In "Hello, Dolly" there is a line that says, "Money is like manure. If it is all piled up it stinks. But if you spread it around it’ll do some good." There’s great insight in that statement. If you hoard it, it can cause great harm in your life.
5. Then vs. 14 gives another grievous evil: "Wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when he has a son there is nothing left for him."
You know how fickle it is. You have it today & it is gone tomorrow. The stock market goes up & down. Banks close. You never know if you’re going to have tomorrow what you have today. It is easily lost.
6. Finally, vs. 15 says that our possession of money is terminal. "Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, & as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand."
ILL. Ann Landers had an interesting letter in her column. It was from a girl who was writing about her uncle & aunt. She said, "My uncle was the tightest man I’ve ever known. All his life, every time he got paid he took $20 out of his paycheck & put it under his mattress.
Then he got sick & was about to die. As he was dying, he said to his wife, "I want you to promise me one thing." "Promise what?" she asked. "I want you to promise me that when I’m dead you’ll take my money from under the mattress & put it in my casket so that I can take it all with me."
The girl’s letter went on with the story. "He died, & his wife kept her promise. She went in & got all that money the day he died & went to the bank & deposited it, & wrote out a check & put it in his casket."
SUM. We can’t take it with us. There’s no way in the world that we’ll ever be able to take it with us. And it is just as futile to say to ourselves, "I can really be happy if I had the money, the wealth, the things that someone else has. . ."
III. THE ANTIDOTE FOR COMPARISON IS CONTENTMENT
A. Thirdly, the antidote for comparison is contentment. It is learning to be content with what you have. Now the word "content" comes from the word "contain." It means that a person becomes a self-contained person, & his or her inner resources are sufficient to supply everything that person needs.
Let me read the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4. Now bear in mind that Paul was a super-achiever, a guy who has been in the rat-race & knows what it is all about. Here is what he writes in chapter 4, vs’s 11-13.
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, & I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any & every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."
B. Again Paul writes in Philippians 3:7-9, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. . ."
ILL. The story is told about a man who was stricken with a mood of generosity & he started running around his neighborhood, passing out $100 bills at every house. He did this every day for weeks, passing out $100 bills.
But one day he accidentally missed one house, & the owner of the house came running out saying, "Where is my $100 bill?" Do you get the point?
None of us deserve it. Whatever you have today, whatever you own, is a gift from God, & you have no right to expect more than what God has given you.
Be a good steward of that. Show God that He can trust you, & He’ll give you more as you need it. As it fulfills His plan He’ll give you whatever you need to make it through every day of life.
ILL. I think this principle was fulfilled in a wonderful way in our state a few years ago. Tony Crawford was a police officer in the Dallas Police Department. He was shot by two teenagers & was left paralyzed from the waist down. Finally, the trials were completed, & the last assailant was found guilty & sent to prison.
But there was a really tender scene pictured in the newspaper that showed Tony Crawford in his wheel chair holding the hand of the young man who had shot him. And the news reported that Tony Crawford said to him, "I forgive you, & I hope you’ll keep in touch & let me know how you’re getting along down there."
Then he said, "It’s over, & it’s time for me to get on with my life, & I will do that until I hear Him say to me on that day, `Get up & walk.’"
SUM. That’s contentment. That’s not looking around & becoming envious of what other people have. That’s not comparing two paralyzed legs to everybody else who can walk. That’s saying, "God, I’ll accept whatever comes my way, & I’ll continue on until you tell me to get up & walk."
I don’t know this morning if you’re busy comparing yourself to someone else. If you are, shame on you. God doesn’t want you to do that. There is nothing to be gained from it at all.
But He does want you to look into His mirror & see yourself in the image in which you have been created. He wants you to see yourself for the unique person that you are. And He wants you to find His will for you, & fulfill it.
CONCL. This morning, if you’re here & you’re not a Christian, then I want you to know that Jesus Christ went to the cross & died for your sins & He wants more than anything else to be the Lord & Savior of your life.
He wants to come in & change the way you look at everything, & to realize that all of the things that you thought were so important in this world are not really that important at all. But that the single most important thing is to know Jesus Christ as your Lord & Savior.
If you don’t know Him today, we extend to you His invitation & pray that you’ll respond by coming forward & joining us as we stand & as we sing.