Keeping up with the Joneses.
In generations gone by, this aphorism was meant to judge one’s success by comparing social status and material possessions with your neighbor generically referred to as the Joneses. To be successful meant to equal or surpass the Joneses. If they had a new car, you had to get one, bigger and more luxurious. Anything less was a failure. The 21st-century tongue in cheek adaptation may be “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”.
Socioeconomic disparities are very easy to recognize in our broken world. There are politicians who prey on these disparities, weaponizing it and fomenting strife, alleging that any success or wealth is ill-gotten and therefore, must be redistributed to everyone, regardless of whether they are capable of working or are willing to work to earn it. Some even point out the disparities that exist between Israel and its Arab neighbors is yet another manifestation of the same problem. It is simplistic to attribute all disparities to exploitation. The reasons are complex and require a willingness to look beyond the current state of affairs and seek a broader understanding.
In the Bible, Ishmael was Abraham’s first son, but he was not chosen by God to be in the line of His chosen people, the Hebrews. This blessing would come through Isaac, his stepbrother. God by His sovereign will choose Isaac over Ishmael. Yet, Ishmael was still blessed by God and he became the patriarch of the modern Arabs.
God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.”
Genesis 17:19-20 (ESV)
God chose the Hebrews to be the keepers of His Covenant. Some critics have pointed out that this demonstrates that God is a capricious Being, arbitrarily deciding who will prosper, but this would be shortsighted. God did not forsake all other nations at the expense of Israel. He intended that all nations would be blessed through them. Although the middle east has not yet realized the full blessings of God, someday Israel and its Arab neighbors will be united, recognizing their common inheritance through Abraham. It is a beautiful plan that requires a willingness to go beyond the current disparities and troubles of the region and seek ties that bind, rather than differences that unravel.
…and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.
Genesis 22:18 (ESV)
God continues His blessings through all who confess and repent of their sins and accept His Son, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior. If through God’s grace and mercy, we have been saved through faith and belief in His Son, Jesus Christ, we have a solemn responsibility to care for our neighbors in all socioeconomic levels.
We do not need to keep up with the Joneses. Our success is only measured by how we respond to God’s grace and mercy in our lives. There are socioeconomic disparities in this fallen world. Will we, who have been saved by the undeserved grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, use God’s blessings in our lives to bring salt and light to a fallen world, or will we look away and passively allow others to foment strife and prey upon these differences?
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.