A Commitment to Contentment

Have you ever visited someone’s house and found yourself wondering why you don’t own a house in this neighborhood? We recently went to visit some friends and they have just put a gorgeous new pool in their backyard. It is surrounded by a tropical landscape and provides a lovely private retreat for their family. As we drove home, I had to confess I was coveting that beautiful backyard pool and garden. My heart was struggling with discontentment.a_commitment_to_contentment-title-2-still-16x9

Reading in the book of Ezra, we see a great deal of work and effort being poured into rebuilding the Temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 586 B.C.

The people of Israel gathered in Jerusalem and “built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it” (Ezra 3:2). After they began to offer sacrifices on the altar of God, it was time for the next step of the project. Ezra 3:8 says, “They appointed the Levites … to supervise the work of the house of the Lord.”

 “And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.’ And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.” ~Ezra 3:10-13

For some of the people, their focus was on the Lord – “many shouted aloud for joy.” However, the priests, Levites, and old men had a different response and a very different focus – “they wept with a loud voice.” Why two extreme responses at the same gathering?

The older men were remembering the glory of Solomon’s Temple – the gold, silver, cedar, superb craftsmanship. The value of Solomon’s Temple is estimated at $500 Billion (that would be half a trillion dollars – Whoa!). After many years in exile, these people were looking back, rather than rejoicing and praising the Lord for the opportunity to return to Jerusalem. They would, once again, be able to worship and offer sacrifices to the Lord at the Temple. But, instead, part of this group chose to look back and compare the extravagant wealth and workmanship of the past Temple and viewed the rebuilt Temple as “not good enough.”

 “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” ~Exodus 20:17 (Emphasis mine)

We are God-made souls. When we compare, we are essentially telling God that what He created wasn’t good enough, what He has provided for us isn’t enough. We start to believe the lie that God’s plan is not good enough for our lives. And I know for sure, my heart will not find contentment when I am focused on myself and wanting more for me.

The new OCD – Obsessive Comparison Disorder – is killing us. We use comparison as a measuring stick for every area of our lives. We determine our value or worth based on the comparison between others and ourselves. And, God has told us that it is sin (the last of the ten commandments).

So, how can we practice obeying commandment #10? How can we address this sin in our daily lives?

First, begin to recognize and acknowledge when you are coveting “anything that is your neighbor’s.” Next, make yourself STOP for a minute. Take a deep breath, control your thoughts, and examine what’s going on in your heart and mind. Determine to change your focus. You might call this a Mental Reboot.

Lord, show me who You are. I can be comfortable in the unique giftedness that You have given me. And, I can celebrate the unique giftedness that He has given to you.

And, finally, memorizing scripture verses are such a good practice for us to redirect our thoughts from ourselves to the Lord.

 “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice … do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:4-7

Additional Resource: I’m Happy for You {Sort Of … Not Really}, by Kay Wills Wyma.

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