I can remember as a young child, whenever I ate at a restaurant, I always regretted what I ordered and instead begged for whatever my parents got (I know; can you say, “spoiled”). In my teenage years, I always compared my Christmas gifts with my sister, adding up what I thought each present costs, to make sure my parents were giving fairly. Even as an adult now, I still find myself comparing; they have a better job, a bigger house, the newest Apple Watch, etc. It’s unfortunate though, because whenever I do get the newest or best thing, I don’t feel special like I think I should. What I do get is an empty wallet, more responsibility, and ultimately regret when the next thing comes out (“I should’ve waited…”) or I discover I have missed a more important opportunity (time with family, etc.). And I know that I’m not the only one to feel this way.
I know that I am not the only one who struggles with wanting the newest, shiniest, or best. I know that we all want a safe, comfortable, and warm house to call home. I definitely know that I am not alone when I say I am completely happy with my mortgage, loans, retirement, and current bank account balance (not!). Let’s face it, we are living in a place and time when technology is advancing so fast, that what was only imagined in the mind of Gene Roddenberry (in case you don’t know, he created Star Trek) is now becoming a reality. There is an overall sense of entitlement in American culture that is becoming so pervasive that people are sacrificing their friends, family, and even their own consciences to achieve what the Joneses have.
Myth #1- It is possible to have all the newest gadgets and keep up with the hottest trends.
Fact – Raymond Kurzweil, American author, computer scientist, inventor and futurist (who won the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Clinton), has observed that from the beginning of civilization, major advances in technology have occurred at an exponential rate. It is inevitable that we will not be able to catch up with the newest and nicest. Energy should then be spent on that with is immaterial and non-temporal (relationships with God, family and friends).
Myth #2- The Joneses must be rich because they can afford all the nice things: homes, cars, gadgets, vacations.
Fact – Chances are, the Joneses are in DEBT! The average American is in fact in debt, and not by a small amount. The following are average household debts of the average American:
- Student loan debt = $49,000
- Credit card debt = $5,000 (average), $16,000 (median)
- Mortgage debt = $173,000
- Auto loan = $30,000
- Personal loans = $10,000
Instead of having the “biggest and best”, why not strive for the “most reasonable and healthiest”? God wants us to live life to the fullest (John 10:10, Ephesians 3:19), and we can’t do that while we are enslaved to debt (Proverbs 22:7). Obviously, to live life to the fullest means something different than what American society says; maybe it’s the fullest devotion to God, fullest love for one’s family, and fullest joy with one’s friends.
Myth #3 – Money buys happiness.
Fact – According to Elizabeth Dunn, Ph.D., wealth makes it harder to enjoy simple pleasures, which is what most of one’s life is made up of. Have you eaten pasta in Italy? Chances are eating at Olive Garden is no longer going to get you excited. Have you laid on a deserted beach in Costa Rica? Well, then packed Carolina beach in July probably doesn’t seem too attractive. Disciplining yourself and focusing on what is important in life, God, family and friends (Matthew 22:36-40), will allow you to have a more fulfilled, happy life. (Men’s Health, 2013)
Stop Chasing the Joneses!
To sum it all up, chasing the Joneses is a losing battle! We have to be realistic, the truth is unavoidable: there is a hole in everyone’s heart that needs to be filled. Some people fill it with things; some with relationships; and some with accomplishments. The important thing to remember however, is God created us with this hole, and the shape of the hole was designed very specifically: it is God-shaped! The only way to be truly happy in life is to have a personal relationship with God, study His Word, and follow the advice and wisdom that is written for all to know (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
Response: Take some time to reevaluate where your heart is. Is it striving for the treasures of this world, or resting in the treasures of heaven? Take an inventory of what you have in your life that you can be thankful to God for. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This Christmas, keep Jesus as the reason for the season!