This week, a socially unpredictable thing happened to me.
Someone asked me how much money I make. He decided to break through the social awkwardness by first telling me how much he makes.
I won’t go into all the details about how we got to a conversation where someone felt comfortable asking me how much I make, but I will tell you what I learned from the experience.
As soon as he asked the question, I calculated, compared, and reverse coveted. (Hey, I’m not saying I’m proud of it, just reporting the facts).
Calculated: I actually can’t recollect my annual income off the top of my head because I think of my salary in terms of months. When he told me how much he makes annually, I immediately tried to figure out how much that is a month.
Compared: I didn’t think about this until later, but my first instinct to calculate was so that I’d be in a better position to compare. I can’t hardly compare annual salary to monthly salary, so I had to reduce his statement into one I could compare … to my own salary.
(Kind of a selfish thing to do, isn’t it?!)
Reverse Coveted: I breathed an internal sigh of relief when my calculations and comparisons revealed that I do in fact earn more than him. Though, once again, I must admit that if I removed my small business income from the equation, he did come out ‘on top’, and there was a ting of coveting for a moment. That was until I managed to consol myself with the fact that ‘total’ I still make more.
This all happened in a matter of about 2-3 seconds.
In that short dialogue, I confirmed what Jason Zweig observes in his book Your Money and Your Brain:
"There is a good reason, however, that the Ten Commandments close with a thundering inventory of the things that "Thou shall not covet." While a secret pinch of envy is a positive motivator, a chronic comparison complex can ruin your life. If you cannot control the ancient urge to measure your success against that of your peers, you’re happiness will always depend less on how much money you have than on how much money they have."
Chronic Comparison Complex
I don’t want my happiness (or blessedness) to be based on having more. More money. More time. More freedom. More wisdom. More than my neighbors. In those cases, my happiness will always be influx with the tides of success or failure that others experience.
I want to fight off and defend my soul against the urge to compare.
I want to learn these two things:
1. To recognize that every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:7).
When God blesses us (materially or non-materially), we must recognize God as the source of that goodness. When we see God’s blessings in our life, we ought to feel unworthy. For we were dead in our trespasses and sins, but it was God who made us alive in Christ Jesus because God is rich in mercy.
What I am and what I have is a gift from God.
2. To look at what I have – not what I don’t have.
Taking inventory of others’ blessings is sure to put a damper on anyone’s spirit. Let’s say your company posts its largest quarterly earnings, and the next week your competitor posts higher earnings.
Does that impact the level of joy you experience?
It’s the process of learning to be content.
Can I really affirm 1 Tim 3:8, "As long as we have food and clothing we will be content with that?"
Oh, and by the way, for those of you who are wondering, I make … NOT!
How have you learned not to covet what your neighbor has?