Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Wanting to be like the Joneses

Today I read an interesting passage from the Bible, the book of 1 Samuel chapter 8.
This chapter basically tells us the request of the Israelites for a King. Their main reason for wanting a king was so they could be like the other nations.

When Prophet Samuel who had been leading them all along tried to make them understand the consequences of having a king, they refused to bulge. The consequences of having a king were not trivial because a king would essentially enslave them. 

He would demand for the best from them, he would tax them and they would lose their rights and freedom. In verse 17-18 we see in summary what a king would do,
He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

You would think the Israelites would think this matter through carefully. Sadly their desire to be like other nations was so great that they refused to listen to Prophet Samuel.
“No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” – verses 19,20

Well in later books of the Bible, notably 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles, we see the consequences of their demands. Many of their kings were horrible and trampled on the people and brought about destruction, pain, and wars.

All these would have been avoided if they had not desired to have what others had. The Israelites failed to understand that they were different from other nations and had a different assignment/purpose on earth. And so instead of being focused on their uniqueness, they became focused on what others had and that led to their downfall.

Isn’t that a bit like how we behave today? We compare ourselves with others and desire to be like them. We forget that we are unique and God has assigned us a distinct purpose on earth. In our quest to be like others or the Joneses, we lose sight of our uniqueness and cause ourselves unnecessary pain.

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to be what you are not. First of all you don’t have the capabilities and even when you finally achieve it (with much struggle on the way), you don’t enjoy it. Why? Because you were not designed to be that.

The other day I watched a children’s program with my son called “Thomas the tank engine”. In that episode, one of the tank engines/train that was responsible for carrying rubbish was unhappy with his job. He didn’t like looking and smelling dirty, he desperately wanted to carry passengers like another tank engine/train and look clean.

The thing was, he wasn’t fitted with the capabilities of the passenger trains. He was custom made for carrying rubbish and was the best at doing that task. But his desire to be a passenger train was too great. So he went out of his way to become a passenger train. Well after he became one, he realised he was getting frustrated at the job because he wasn’t meeting the requirements of the passengers. After a while, he decided he didn’t like being a passenger train anymore and went back to being a rubbish train. He realised he was happiest being who he was designed to be.

Like that rubbish train, we can only be happy when we are doing what we were designed for. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have or what others have, why don’t you focus on what you have been given? In your quest to have what others have, you may put yourself through unnecessary pain and eventually not enjoy it.
God doesn’t make any mistakes, everything we have been given is custom made for us to fulfil our purpose on earth. Each of us is unique, an original copy, and God wants to enjoy our uniqueness instead of trying to be like others. Appreciate everything you have, the good ones and the ‘not-so-good ones’, they are there for a reason.

When I was younger, I used to wish I was taller. In fact I almost prayed to be taller, until I realised it was not worth bothering God about! But if I was taller, I may never have been married to my wonderful husband who is only taller than me by a couple of inches.

Our God is interested in every detail of our lives, and whatever He has given us is for a purpose. Don’t be bothered by the shape of your nose, or your skin colour, or your family, or marital status or anything. Don’t envy those who have what you do not. And above all don’t try to get it by hook or by crook. Delight yourself in God, thank Him for what you have, and trust Him for the things you need.

God bless.

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