Contentment or Comparison? Which Way to Live

Roter und Grüner ApfelOn Sunday we looked at the issue of comparison that runs throughout so many of our relationships. We share with a parent friend that our child is reading Dr. Seuss and they respond with, “That’s great my little Johnny loved reading Dr. Seuss…last year”.  And we feel like our kids are behind.

This happens all over in sorts of relationships. We base whether we are doing okay, on whether we are keeping up with those around us. Our lives end up being driven then by those around us. They set our pace, and they set our expectations.

Solomon says this is dumb. Well technically he says it’s meaningless, but I think he would also say it’s dumb, silly, and not helpful. He writes this: “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless–like chasing the wind.”

He essentially is saying comparison drives us forward, but it’s meaningless. It doesn’t get us anywhere and leaves us empty, and grasping.

And this is Solomon that won at the comparison game. He was the wealthiest, smartest, most powerful person around. When he compared himself with anyone, he always won. And so even though he won the comparison game, he says it won’t get you anywhere. It will drive you into the ground. It’s meaningless.

So that’s what we looked at on Sunday.

Thankfully though Solomon wasn’t done. He didn’t just say don’t live with comparison, he gave us another way to live. He says one verse later: “And yet it is better to have one handful with quietness, than two handfuls with hard work and chasing after the wind.”

His point is this: it is better to live with contentment (one handful) than comparison (two handfuls and grasping for more). Contentment is better than comparison every time.

And this is true, learning to be content is the most freeing thing. And it is something we need to learn, because we are taught to compare and compete. But Solomon, the wisest person, says contentment is far better.

So to land this on Sunday we asked one question: are there any areas of our lives that comparison is leading rather than contentment?

  • Is comparison or contentment driving our career?
  • Is comparison or contentment driving our parenting?
  • Is comparison or contentment driving our finances?
  • Is comparison or contentment driving our lives?

And I think this is a question worth reflecting on and acting on. The rat race, of comparison and competition, just makes us frantic. Contentment makes us whole.

So what can you be grateful and content with today? And maybe if we just start with that question every day we can learn to live different.

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Contentment is always better than comparison.

Take Aways…

  • Comparison is a trap we get stuck in.
  • Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless–like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4
  • We are motivated not by what is best for us, but by what everyone else does.
  • We are driven not from real need but from comparison.
  • “Fools fold their idle hands,
leading them to ruin.” Ecclesiastes 4:5
  • “Better to have one handful with quietness
 than two handfuls with hard work 
and chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6
  • We need to let contentment shape our lives, rather than comparison.
  • Am I content or comparing?
  • When our focus is on what we don’t have, we will always feel empty.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Has comparison ever driven you to do something you regret? What was it? Which of the examples Andrew shared about comparison resonated or related to you? How much has comparison been driving your relationship in the past few months? In terms of your family, work, friends, and finances is contentment or comparison the main driving force? What do you have that you can be grateful and content with? Where do you need to rid yourself of comparison? Who can help you with that? How can you do that?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Talk to you kids about today’s topic. Teach them that what matters is being content. Ask them how they might compare themselves or their toys with others? Ask them what is something they can be content with? Share with them some of the things you are content and happy with. Start to make that rhythm this week doing it at least once a week.

Challenge for this Week: This week live with contentment.

Comparison is a Killer

Donor-Management-Software-ComparisonOn Sunday we are going to be exploring a temptation that I think we all face that wrecks and ruins relationships. And it’s this: comparison.

The truth is comparison kills. Comparison kills relationships, friendships, our identity’s, our security, our hope, and our happiness. But rather than rooting out comparison we seek to win at comparison. We try to make sure our kids are just a bit better than those around us; that our careers are just a bit better than our friends; that our marriages, vacations, finances, cars, houses, whatever, are just a bit above those around us – so we feel like we are succeeding. As long as our Facebook, and Instagram feeds are a constant highlight real we feel secure.

On Sunday though we are going to look at where this type of living leads. And it is the common way of living. We want to make sure that we matter by evaluating ourselves in relation to everyone else. We measure our standing against those around us. But this doesn’t get us anywhere. It just makes us frantic, driven, and insecure.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday. But before we get there let me ask you a question that I think will free your life. Is there any area of your life where comparison is driving it forward?

Is comparison and competing driving your work life? Is it driving your parenting? It is driving your spending? Is there any area where comparison is driving your life forward?

I think this is a question worth reflecting on, because wherever comparison is controlling, difficulty isn’t far behind. So are there any areas in your life where comparison rather than contentment is the guiding force?

And if so, come Sunday we’re going to look at a different way to live.

Keeping Up with the Jones’

Ever heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”? I’m not sure how to correctly spell Jones-es. But my guess is that the Jones’ do and would correct my spelling…

Because isn’t that the point about that phrase? That around us are these people with perfect put together lives, lawns, children, and even grammar? These are the people who are always smiling and life seems to just go well for them. And secretly, many of us try to keep up with them, or just hope our lives would be like them. While this is a struggle for many of us on a personal level, it becomes even more difficult on a spiritual level.

Because I believe we often base our hope for God’s involvement in our lives, on our present reality. Meaning that if our lives are a bit of a mess we don’t expect God to change things that much. While we might not outwardly say it, we feel it. We think that God might answer the prayer of the Jones’ because they pray everyday, they give to the church, their kids are perfect, and their lives are put together. Sure God would show up in their always perfectly clean life, but it is less likely in our messy lives.

After many years of listening, I hear these thoughts so often. They are objections to God’s involvement in our lives because… “I did this….” “I don’t deserve God because…” “That might work for some but I’m just…”

So we don’t hope, we don’t expect God to show up, and we struggle. We know that God answers prayers for parking spaces for the Jones’ but when we’re drowning in debt he seems far away.

Well this Sunday I want to challenge that thought. I want to challenge that belief because it’s not true, and it’s not biblical. This Sunday I want to discover how God loves to show up in a mess, and we’ll discover how in the midst of family drama, division, hurt feelings, rejection, and mess, Jesus shows up. I think that’s worth discovering because if your at all like me, my life has some mess in it. But the beautiful thing is that is exactly where Jesus wants to show up…