Every so often my Bible reading plan gets interrupted by a verse that grabs my attention and demands that I stay put and allow it to marinate in my mind.
This week it was actually two verses in 1 Samuel 8—verses 5 and 20.
They both relate to Israel's demand for a king to rule over them as a nation. Up till this point, the tribes of Israel had been ruled by judges who were raised up by God, and served under His anointing.
Now the people insisted that the Prophet Samuel must appoint them a king so that they "may be like all the nations."
To be fair, part of the stated reason for their request for a king was because their current judges (Samuel's sons) were corrupt!
So, it was understandable (and even honorable) that the elders wanted a change in leadership. But the reason for the requested change had little to do with rooting out corruption. It was all about being like the surrounding nations.
In other words, "We wanna be like them."
"What's wrong with that?" you may ask. Oh dear, where do we begin?
Everything was wrong with that request, and it was a reminder to me (1) how important it is for believers to endeavor to stay near the heart of God, (2) to guard my own heart from straying and (3) to take my eyes off the wrong target (other people).
The elders complained about internal corruption, but the surrounding nations who they sought to copy were beyond corrupt. I say "beyond" corrupt, because many of those nations worshiped hand-made gods and even sacrificed people in supposed worship to their creations.
In fact, it's likely that some of the corruption the elders supposedly sought to root out of their own leaders were learned or mirrored from the very people they were now wanting to be like!
This is the slippery slope you begin to glide when you take your eyes off God and begin placing it on other people.
Eventually, Israel would get their king, but he was a complete disappointment. Appointing him did not end corruption or accomplish anything more than further isolating the people from God.
"Be careful what you wish for," the old saying goes.
This theme repeats itself through Scripture and may be rearing its ugly head in your life.
If you're human, it's bound to happen to you. Even King David, "the man after God's own heart," who succeeded the disappointing king (Saul) lamented how hard it was for him to see the wicked prosper (Psalm 17).
David complained about the seeming prosperity of people who openly turn their backs on God, but whose bellies are overflowing with delicacies and possessions.
Does any of that sound familiar? It probably does. It's difficult not to compare ourselves to others. Especially when we feel like we've been following God, but things aren't working out as well for us as they appear to be for the ones who seem not to care at all, or who seem downright evil or corrupt!
Can I get a witness?
There are lots of problems with this thinking. First, who died and left you or me king, or even a judge? Also, while it's easy to covet other people's stuff (from the outside looking in), would you really want to stand in their shoes?
Do you know what they may have endured or done to get what they have? Do you truly "wanna be like them?" Stop and think about that for a moment.
The biggest problem with wanting to be like other people is not even the prospect that they may be more corrupt than you. Measuring who is more sinful is also a trap. I'd rather leave that determination to God.
The true issue is that when you compare yourself to others, you lose yourself; your unique composition, contribution and the role you're divinely called to play in your home, community and world.
It's like rejecting a gift that someone thoughtfully picked out for you. Think of God as the Giver. He made you "wonderful" in His own image. He endowed you with gifts, talents, and a calling to be used as a blessing to others.
Training your eyes on what someone else has, flies in the face of this blessing. That's why the Apostle Paul said that comparing ourselves among ourselves is foolish.
God knew this tendency in the human heart and so He took the form of the Person we should all emulate: Jesus.
That's the target.
Strive to be like Jesus in every area of your life. When you've had an encounter with the "Real Thing" (The true Person of Christ) you may still be tempted to compare yourself with others, but you will never again be satisfied by a fake.
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