Week of Dec. 11

When Jealousy Threatens. The Story of Elizabeth.

Day 1: Today I watched a commercial that informed me that a product I currently have is no longer sufficient. Oddly, the product was quite adequate only a few minutes before. However, now I can see, as I study this new product, the failings of my current one. All that it isn’t and doesn’t do are blatantly obvious now. If the product is the latest cell phone I’m probably stuck in a contract and will have to suffer as everyone else gets to upgrade. Maybe I will “accidently” crash my archaic model to the ground, then I can finally have what I’ve always wanted. Maybe this seems silly. Wanting upgrades or new and improved products doesn’t mean we are jealous, bitter, discontented people. But how do we keep from going there in a culture driven by new, better, more? How do we discern if our desire for something more, different, or new, is a simple enjoyment or if it is being fed by seeds of discontentment? Some questions we might ask ourselves may be ,”Why do I want this?” “Is it important to me that I have it?” Why?” “What does the thought of not getting this do to my attitude or my mood?” “Are there relationships, tasks, or responsibilities in my life that aren’t getting the focus they deserve because I’m occupied with getting this ‘thing’?”

 Day 2: Comparison can take a blessing-  something that was enough -  and turn it in to not enough. Read Luke 1:24-25. Elizabeth received her pregnancy – this child – as favor and blessing from God. Comparing her blessing to Mary’s or anyone else’s would have made what was enough, not enough. Elizabeth had the choice to fully receive the blessing God had given her and to experience all that it was or she could choose to reject it and see all that it wasn’t. In the days of social media and reality shows we are saturated with everyone’s perfect, exciting, and beautiful lives. If we are not careful we can easily become dissatisfied and even disillusioned by what appears to be a life so much less than everyone else’s. Can you relate to a time when comparison caused you to become discontent? Do you judge your life and your relationships by how they compare to others? Ask God to open your eyes to any attitudes or beliefs that feed a comparison mentality. Pray for a heart of contentment, peace and gratitude.

 Day 3: Read Luke 15:25-27. I imagine the older son went out that morning with a full heart. As countless days before he likely felt satisfaction as he worked hard. Perhaps at noon as he sat under the shade of a tree he looked across the expanse of his land and wealth where animals were grazing, crops were growing, barns full with grain, and houses full with family, and repeated the Psalm “Be at rest once more oh my soul for the Lord has been good to you.”  At dusk, tired and hungry from a full day, he makes his way to the house. Read verses 28-31. Everything that he had been satisfied and blessed by that morning was still his but he refused to “go in” out of anger and jealousy. From an attitude of jealousy, the older son effectively loses all that he has because it is no longer enough. Is there something you are in danger of losing or tossing aside because you see it as no longer enough?

 Day 4: What attitude do you have when someone else succeeds or is blessed in a way that you aren’t? Do you find it difficult to celebrate success and blessings in the lives of others? Read Luke 15:11-13 and verse 30. Maybe the older son would have joined the celebration if he had thought his brother deserved to be forgiven and blessed? Have you ever felt jealousy welling up in your own heart toward someone that you felt as not deserving of blessings and forgiveness? What would it look like to pause and focus on the true nature of mercy and grace? How would that change your own heart?

 Day 5: Jesus talked a great deal about our tendencies to seek after. He did this not to impose rules to follow, but because our heart will be formed by what we seek after. Read Matthew 6:33.What does seeking the Kingdom of God look like in the parable of the lost son? Hearts restored. Relationships reconciled. Forgiveness given and received. The older son missed it and instead of moving toward a heart of grace, forgiveness, and gratitude – a Kingdom of God heart – he took steps toward isolation, anger, bitterness, jealousy, and discontentment. The attitudes we hold, the thoughts we entertain, the words we give voice to, and the things we do, are shaping our heart and determining the person we will become.  It is as simple as that. It is as difficult as that. What does shaping a Kingdom of God heart look like in light of comparison and discontentment in your life right now? Is there a relationship that has become strained because of jealousy? What blessings are you not able to enjoy because, as a result of comparison, they are no longer enough? These are difficult questions and we may be tempted to brush past them. Don’t. Invite God in and determine to make the changes and take the steps you need to take.

 

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