What is it about human nature that tends so heavily to discontent and fails to appreciate the real riches that no money can buy?
I’m going to step into the confessional this morning and ask the question, Why do I really need another donkey?
What we’re going to be looking at at is really tackling the green eyed beast of envy. So last week, Larna was kind enough to recognise that I was getting a bit stir crazy and encouraged me to look, just go out, carry your work elsewhere, get into a different environment. So I went down to the local pub. We’ve got a lovely pub in the village that we live in here. I went down there, took my laptop down, bought myself a drink and was working on a book that I’ve been writing over the past weeks about prayer and the presence of God and commitment to God’s purpose and to prayer.
And as I’m sat there in walk of these shiny looking individuals, young, vibrant and by young, I mean like my kind of young kids here.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how our estimation of what’s young tends to extend as we pile on the ears and they come in and they order bottles of wine and a slap up lunch. And then some friends spontaneously join them and the mirth ensues. And I’m sat there and I notice a creeping discontent crawl over my soul and really a disconnect from this rich life that I’m learning to live in Christ. And by rich life, I mean inward, that inward life that we are seeking. It’s like this siren call back down to Earth can so often interrupt, like living in fullness.
And that doesn’t mean that our outer life and our inner life are not connected in any way, etcetera. I’m not in any way suggesting that there is a call to some kind of poverty stricken monkish existence. But it’s amazing how the Ballaster bags of envy can have this horrible habit of dragging us back down and dragging us along the ground when we see the seeming prosperity of other people, the ease with which they seem to conduct their existence on the planet. It’s really odd and can catch us unaware.
And I say us because most of us are like the rest of us.
I can only speak for myself, really, but I think that this is something that many people really wrestle with. It’s like jealousy is the stock in trade of the world that we now inhabit. The bright and the brilliant are paraded as the Mark to shoot for. But then there’s this grim rubbing of normal noses in the apparent mediocrity of their own existence, and it can drive us to do things, buy things, go places, think in different ways, speak in different ways that we wouldn’t otherwise consider. The environment of consumerism that we exist in today in the Western culture is so finely tuned that it is designed to leverage that fleshy desire for comfort, that fleshy desire for more, that fleshy desire to size up and to outstrip the Joneses in ways that really Rob us of the wonder of gratitude that we otherwise would live in.
Now I’m thinking about how the father laid out only ten explicit Commandments that he deemed worthy of etching into stone, and one of them slammed this tendency head on. And it kind of made me smile. When I was thinking about this odd situation that I found myself in when I was in the pub last week, it says, you shall not cover your neighbor’s house. You shall not cover your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant, nor his Ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbours.
I got to thinking, Dude, why would I even want another donkey? I have so many donkeys piled up in my own life already. So many blessings to thank God for. It’s almost criminal when I contrast it with the terrors that some on the Earth today are facing every single day the lives that we live as top percenters. And the problem is because the media tries to downplay just how abundantly we live in just our regular existence.
We get to thinking that even when we are drowning under the prosperity that we enjoy as people in the Western Nations, we can get to think that somehow more is going to satisfy the deep craving of our lives. And it’s just not true. It is just not true.
It’s this human nature that tends so heavily to discontent and fails to appreciate the real riches that ultimately no money can buy. I’m learning to be real thankful. And I guess this is one reason why I’m not too worried to confess these things. I’m learning to be thankful that the Holy Ghost would shine a spotlight on the cracks in my character and pull the pus to the surface. It sounds horrible.
I know, and it is that’s the whole point. But as my mum so sagely says, better out than in pondering this comparison game that I found myself caught in the pub there, I brought it to the table of prayer. I was talking with the Holy Ghost, really looking for a remedy, like asking him, Why do I still find myself caught in this game? And he showed me a picture of a man like a glass man, a transparent man being filled with water. And there was all this sediment that had settled in his stationary life.
And as he was filled with water, all of the sediment was pushed up and out, the Fuller he became. The more of this kind of grimy sediment was pushed up and out. So it was no longer clouding the vision being able to see through. And the Holy Ghost explained, he said, My love casts out fear and really the envy and jealousy and all of these different things that can cause us to chase after things that will never really satisfy us. The root of that is fear, fear of lack fear, that God will not provide fear that we will miss out whatever else it may be.
And as we know, the online life is absolutely stock full of that kind of mindset. The answer really is not to perform an internal witch Hunt for all of those less than sanctified areas that drag what otherwise would be a buoyant spirits down it’s to be filled to overflowing with the presence of the real treasure. God’s presence, how beautiful to rise above the froth and bubble and swirling confusions of this lower life and sit to get perspective in the presence of the one who is truly high and lifted up.
Worship lifts us above the fray and clears our vision to see. Now one of my favourite Psalms is Asaph’s wonderfully vulnerable petition in Psalm 73.
We read there, and I’m just reading a few excerpts from the verses. But the whole Psalm of 73 is so worth just taking a moment to read through and he says, Truly, God is good to Israel, even to such as who are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone. My steps had well, nice slipped. I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked until I went into the sanctuary of God.
Then I understood the end. Now, no way do I want to imply that prosperity is for the wicked alone. I mean, he kind of talks about the prosperity of the wicked. It doesn’t need to be the wicked. It can be anyone.
We can look at our brothers and sisters with narrow eyes, can’t we? It seems to be the human condition apart from Christ, God prospers his people and takes great delight in doing so. But those narrow eyes of envy can afflict even those who are part of the few percenters on the planet who have such an overabundance. I dare say that includes both you and I. So the point I want to make is this.
And it’s really just one word from that Psalm 73 until I went into the sanctuary. How profound are those words? Perspective changes when we step into the sanctuary eye Salve is copiously dispensed in the sacred place. Instead of looking with envious eyes, craving another ass, another donkey to add to our crowded stable, we get caught by the beauty of the King. Listen to these words from Isaiah 33, verse 17.
Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty. They shall behold the land that is very far off. There’s a land that’s very close, stuffed and pushed into our eyes and ears begging for our attention every day. It’s a land so immediate and it’s full of empty glamour and passing riches. And then there’s a land that is very far off, a land flowing with milk and honey whose trees heal the nations and whose sidewalks are paved with the finest gold.
All of the false glamour of this present age cannot shake a stick at the riches that Christ so freely offers. But we need, I think, to make continual and regular visits to the sanctuary, to keep the pipes clean, to keep ourselves full and overflowing, and to make sure our eyes are fixed on eternity. Really? Honestly, you can keep your donkey. I’ll pray that you can get another donkey if you want one.
But a donkey is not going to satisfy the deepest craving of your heart. There’s something far, far greater. God will prosper you and prosper the work of your hand in this life. But, boy, oh, boy. There is something far greater that he also wants to offer you.
And it’s found only in the sanctuary. Well, thanks for listening. Hopefully. Hopefully, it’s been an encouragement to you today. If you want to connect any further, you can do so through my website.
Davidleemartin.com have a great day.