Keeping Up with the Joneses

Written by Craig Denison

 

We’ve all got Joneses in our lives. We’ve all got those people we compare ourselves to. Our offices, schools, entertainment and even our churches are filled with them. It seems like no matter where we look someone else is smarter, more attractive, more loved, more successful or more sought after. No matter what we do we can’t seem to climb above.

Recently I’ve felt the Lord dealing with me about how much time, energy and thought I give to the Joneses in my life. It seems like oftentimes I do what I do not primarily out of a motivation of God’s heart or even my own desires, but to keep up with others around me. I allow the visible success of others to form and fashion my belief about my own success. I allow the path others are charting to form and fashion the paths I believe I should take. And I’m flat out exhausted.

God brought two scriptures to mind for me this week. The first is Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Do you know that you have a unique race set before you? You were created and gifted for a specific purpose— to run your race. No one else can run it for you. No one else is called to do what you do.

It’s not our job to create our own race, but rather our job is to “[look] to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Running with your eyes set on Jesus might lead you to the mission field, to business, to home, to marriage, to the single life, to the church or to a set aside time to quiet yourself and simply listen. It’s not your job to judge the validity of your race. It’s your job to faithfully run whatever path God has set before you— trusting that what he gives you is absolutely critical to the advancement of his kingdom. We weren’t made to bear the weight of charting a path on our own. We we’re made to be yoked to Jesus, to live easy and light as the fruit of letting God be God (Matthew 11:30).

The second verse is Psalm 37:7, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” Why is it that the success of others creates anxiety in me? Take a moment to assess your own heart. How do you feel when the other guy gets a promotion? How do you feel when your friend or spouse talks well of someone else you know?

I’m learning that Joneses don’t just exist on their own, I create them. The Joneses are the Joneses in my life because I allow them to be. Sure the world reveres others. Sure the world lifts up people and tells us to be like them. But in reality the success or failure of others really says nothing about me unless I allow it to. The path others are running down says nothing about my path. In the kingdom of God we are all equally loved. In the kingdom of God his will for our lives is of equal importance. God doesn’t look on us with partiality. He sees us all as children made in his image and created for destinies of eternal significance.

It’s time to stop keeping up with Joneses, and start running down our own paths. And maybe the best place to start is to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Maybe the best place to begin our race today and every day is on our knees that we might set our eyes on Jesus and run whatever path he’s laid before us. Only he knows where we’ll end up. And only he sees the totality of the impact our lives will have. May we find peace for our souls as we place the weight of comparison at the feet of Jesus and experience the freedom that comes from running our own race.