Not Keeping Up with the Joneses

Anokina Shahbaz, Volunteer Writer, Huntley | December 27, 2023

They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”
1 Samuel 8:5-7

We’ve all heard it said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And yet, this doesn’t keep many of us from pursuing lives that mirror ones from others we admire or worse, idolize. The age of social media has undoubtedly ushered in a whole host of new comparison problems, leaving many of us subconsciously desiring to be like everyone else.

There is a deeper longing at the heart of this measuring match—the need to belong. We all want to be part of something. God designed us to be in community and to have fellowship with one another. But when does our desire for belonging cross over into “conform[ing] to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2), something the apostle Paul instructs us not to do? When do you and I begin to abandon God’s commandments for the sake of fitting in?

In these verses, the Israelites are demanding that a king be appointed to lead them, refusing to listen to Samuel. They wanted to be like “all the other nations.” The Scripture goes on to say in verse 8, where God is speaking to Samuel, “as they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.” The Israelites’ corrupt desire to mirror the pagan traditions they saw around them caused them to reject God’s laws. Wanting to be like everyone else, in word or deed, can keep us from following the one true King.

This world has a lot of shiny things to offer us. If we’re not careful, our preoccupation with “keeping up with the Joneses” can gradually tempt us to put God on the back burner. But we are called to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). God created us to stand apart and not conform. We are to look to Him for our sufficiency and contentment, not to our next-door neighbor or social media feed. Some days this will be easier than others. On the days when it’s difficult, I hope you’ll remember that when it comes to belonging, Jesus has prepared a place in his Father’s house where anyone who believes in Him wholeheartedly belongs.

Next Steps

Spend some time reflecting on the ways you seek to have what “all the other nations have” and how this impacts your relationship with God. If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of comparison and discontentment, pray and ask God to help you cultivate a thankful heart, meditating on all He has blessed you with.