Have you ever heard the term, “Keeping up with the Joneses?” I always wondered the identity of Mr. and Mrs. Jones and I questioned how they influenced so many people to mimic their lives. The term originated from a comic strip created by Arthur R. Momand in 1913 that focused on the social climbing of the McGinis family and highlighted their daily struggle to keep up with their neighbors, “The Joneses.” Fast forward over 100 years later, in 2018 as a society we are still trying to keep up with “The Joneses,” “The Jeffersons,” “The Kardashians,” “The Smiths,” “The Carters,” and whoever else we have subconsciously awarded the great task of defining our American standard of happiness. These social idols have rocked us to sleep and subliminally planted a seed in our minds and gave us “The Great American Dream.” They have generated an infinite list of hashtags to live by such as #relationshipgoals, #fitnessgoals, #marriagegoals, #careergoals, #babygoals, #securethebaggoals, and ultimately #livingmybestlife. However, I question what should be defining our standard for living and who is really at the helm of shaping our identity?
I recently went to the supermarket and there was a long line that reached almost to the back of aisle twelve. Nobody in the line had any groceries, not even a gallon of milk or a small bag of fruit. The line was growing as the chatter of the people grew louder with anticipation. Everyone was waiting with at least two dollars cash to chip in on the dream of a lifetime. They were hoping for a payout that had soared to almost one billion dollars. The odds of winning were very slim; nevertheless, the potential prize was well worth the risk of playing the lottery. I heard one woman say, “If I just had one million dollars, all of my problems would be solved, and I would be happy!”
I left out of that supermarket with a burdened heart. I thought, “Is money what defines us as individuals?” Could having an abundance of riches make us truly happy or would it only foster an environment for more problems? I pondered how many people I know personally who eagerly strive to live outside of their financial means and aspire to exceed past their peers socially and economically. The lie that has been passed down over the years that, “The Joneses have it all,” has tricked many people. Nevertheless, the truth is that many millionaires are not exempt from being very unhappy, depressed, or even suicidal. While as a society, many aim to have a spouse, great career, a white picket fence with a dog and perhaps a cat, 2.5 children and a “happy life,” they are confronted with the reality that ultimately there are some things that money cannot buy, most of which are intangible such as friendship, joy, peace, hope and love.
I am convinced that my identity is influenced by something outside of myself. I contemplated what or even who was shaping what I believe to be the standard for living. How do I develop a value system in the midst of so many external opinions and social influences? I no longer filter my identity through the achievements of others, because I am confident in my belief system. I am assured that my identity is shaped through the word of God. My aspirations should mirror the principles set in the living document entitled, “The Bible.” It is my compass that orchestrates my journey throughout life and helps cultivate the decisions that I make from day to day.
Who we become is determined by what we believe, therefore, we should be clear of the principles of our faith and the foundation that we base our life upon should be centered around the word of God. I no longer identify with “The Joneses” and the quest for millions is not life’s finish line. My dreams are defined by the desires that God has placed inside my heart that align with His word and my hashtag goals should be a representation of a life fully submitted to Christ. The fruits of my life should be a display of the intangible things that money cannot buy and the results that linger should represent love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self-control. Happiness is a temporary condition, yet the love of God is eternal. It is a priceless intangible gift that cannot be purchased, which is given freely from God so that we could all have a life full of purpose, unlimited joy and peace. Many will still strive to keep up with “The Joneses,” but my goal is to keep up with Christ. My identity is defined by him so I can live a life that surpasses any American dream.
No decries. No decrees. No desires granted. No dreams fulfilled.
We need to repent because Christ died, while we were sinners. He took our punishment, our death, our sins. He took that on Him. God put our sin on His Son so that we may know Him, “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
And now, we must repent, have a change in our mind, if you will, and put on Christ. We must put on Christ not because He is going to fix our relationships, take care of our depression, stand for black lives, give us a great business idea, make it alright between our co-workers and managers, heal that hip or shoulder that has nagged us for years, or have someone pay for our groceries in a time when we really need that $72.88 for something else.
We need to repent and put on Christ, have the mind of Christ so that we may know Him, ” the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent,” as it is written in John 17.
For far too long, we have lived off that magic prayer at some youth meeting or holiday service and believed that if we do good here and there, we were saved.
Like the lepers, we were slowly dying without ever knowing it and thought that our separation was because only God understood us but in truth, God separated us so that we would never infect others of our unrepentant sins. “You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
It is time to put first things first. Make the main things the plain things and the plain things the main things. We need to learn of God’s ways and follow Christ. Put away our dreams, our visions, our plans, our clocks, our calendars, our life coach’s strategies and “…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [food, water, clothes, i.e. the basics to live] will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).