Growing up, our street looped in a half mile block. In the summer, we played with the other kids on our street. But once school started, there was a clear division between the Catholics and the Protestants. Ninety percent of the neighborhood went to Catholic school. The rest attended public school.
I wished I could go with the bigger crowd of kids. There was an allure to the huge groups of kids walking together in their matching uniforms, a cohesive group that the rest of us could never quite pull off. I wanted to be like them.
It is the we-want-to-be-like-them syndrome. We’ve all experienced it. The neighbors buy a new TV and we think we need one too. Someone gets a new car and we go in debt getting one too.
It is really as old as Adam and Eve’s sons. Cain makes an offering of grain. Abel makes an offering of his animals. Genesis 4:4 says that the Lord looked with favor on Abel’s offering. When Cain grows angry, the Lord tells him that if he does what is right, he his offering will also be accepted. But Cain cannot stand his brother having the Lord’s favor when he does not. In anger he slays Abel.
Fast forward several hundred years. In 1 Samuel 8 (NIV), Israel is living in a theocracy. Simply put, God is the one in charge with prophets who speak for him. As Samuel ages, he appoints his sons to lead after him. His sons are a bit dishonest and the Israelites ask him to appoint a king. At first glance you might think this is smart if Samuel’s boys are dishonest, but catch the bold part of the excerpt below.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 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.
“Such as all the other nations have” — we want to be like the Joneses. We want to be like Egypt or the Philistines or the Amorites. The Lord speaks to Samuel and puts it all in perspective. They are rejecting 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.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. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
Samuel warns the people that a king will claim their sons for war and their daughters as servants. A king will take the best of all they have and demand more. The people still shout, “We want to have a king like them!” And the Lord leaves them to their choice.
I am very close to paying my car off. Someone out there must be keeping a record of that fact. I’ve received a slew of offers that they need my vehicle and can get me into a new car for a lower payment than my current one. Just like the Israelites, I would be opting for a new king to take the best of what I have.
I understand that desire to be like everyone else or to have what others have. But I am learning to caution myself. God has not promised to give us everything we want. But he has promised to give us what we need. Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
- When have you caught yourself wanting to be or have something like someone else?
- What was the result?
- Do you see yourself like the Israelites wanting a king?
- What does it mean to you that God takes care of your every need?
- What can you do today to trust God as your king, provider, and father?