Today my husband visited a friend who was dissatisfied with his home as compared to another's. "Were you happy with your home when you bought it?" he asked."Yes."
"Did you pay a fair price?"
"Did it have the features you asked for?"
"Then why are you unhappy?"
The truth, he realized, was comparison. Comparison robbed him of contentment.
The same is true in ministry. Sometimes I become discontent, not because God has not given me good things, but because I see what someone else has and it changes my expectations. Last Monday Teresa came for our weekly prayer time, and listened to the burdens of my heart. We shared the weight of personal ministry, Scripture and time in prayer. After she left, I continued my readings in Matthew. Chapter 20: Laborers in the Vineyard. Ah, yes, the root of discontent and envy is not the Master, but my expectations.
Here are some thoughts from Matthew 20:1-16:
v. 10-11, 15; “When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it they grumbled at the landowner…. But he answered, ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’”
Impression: The hired men received what they agreed upon—a denarius for a day's work. They were treated fairly by a generous landowner. They began the day on sound footing, working hour upon hour with a reasonable expectation of payment. At the end of the day, they were not cheated or robbed--they were paid. But when they saw their payment compared to others, dissatisfaction surfaced. Even though they received what was agreed upon, their expectations had changed and they reacted to the expectation instead of reality.
They had been content. Now they were envious. They had been committed workers. Now they were resentful. They had worked alongside one another. Now they were critical. They had jumped at a wonderful opportunity. Now they were ungrateful. Expectations, real or imagined, met or unmet, often make way for sinful thoughts, behaviors and choices. The change in expectation (“Look what he got! Surely I’ll get more.”) led to sinful behavior (envy, criticism, discontent).
Application: How often is my disappointment and discontent a function of comparison? God has given what He promised. He has lavished me with lovingkindness, forgiveness, full access to His throne, peace, hope and joy. God has provided and will provide. He is the God of His Word. Very simply, my unhappiness and discontent is most often a function of what others have, not of what God hasn’t given. Envy breeds discontent, ingratitude, resentment, bitterness, dissension, and anger. It has nothing to do with other people or circumstances. It is, much of the time, a change of my expectations—and the fact that they are not met in my time or my way. It is more about what someone else has, not what I don't have.
Discontent is the result of focus. When I am discontent, the question to ask is, "Where are my eyes? Are they on the Giver or the receiver?" When my eyes are on the Giver, I have all I need and more.