In my opinion, it is very difficult to live life without comparing who we are and what we have with others. Our life can be driven by others, not our own values and desires. I can remember so well the purchase of my first car. It was a 1949 Ford with fender skirts, lowered rear end and glass pack mufflers  [twin], with a manual overdrive. It was a deep maroon. I HAD to have that car, but I was not yet 18, so I needed a co-signer. I went to my dad’s place of employment and pleaded my cause with vigor. My dad sat down, went over the contract and was silent. This of course would implicate his finances. Little did I know at the time that I would spend four years of my life in a college in Minneapolis. But right now, I needed his signature. After some thought he reached in his shirt pocket for his pen and signed.

Why did I need that car so badly? Because I was comparing myself with other boys who drove sharp cars. I needed to stay in the competitive game with them. Yes, if you are interested, I did drive that car back and forth to Minneapolis many times and kept it all through college. I think my dad may have been proud of me. [maybe]

Why do we compare who we are with others? Why not keep our eyes closed to others and make decisions based only on what we feel is best for us? By overuse of our eyes, we get ourselves into trouble and end up where we had not planned. Does this disease of comparison affect the quality of our life? Listen to the author of the Psalm:
“…as for me, my feet came close to stumbling; My steps almost slipped”. What caused this?
“For I was envious of the arrogant, as I saw the prosperity of the wicked. There are no pains in their death, and their body is fat. They are not in trouble as other men; they are not plagued like other men. Their pride is their necklace, and the garment of violence covers them. Their eyes bulge with fatness and they live by the imagination of their hearts…they set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongues parade through the earth”. [Ps. 73]

What is the issue here? The Psalmist is forming his opinions and his lifestyle based on what he sees in others, not based on his own walk with God. As he looks at people around him, in his opinion, the ungodly have a better lifestyle than he does. He sees no advantage in living by the principles he has learned from God’s Word. He observes, “they have no pains in death…they are not in trouble as others, they are not plagued like mankind…”. We will always become diverted from the ways of God when we base our lives on what we see and what we hear. If this becomes our philosophy of life, we will believe that he who dies with the most toys wins. I call this keyhole theology; we look at life through a very small window.

It is difficult to live today in this highly technological world that we live in, and not be sucked into its vortex. By doing so, our lives become based on the exterior and not on the interior. By that I mean we live our lives by what we see and hear, not on what we feel. We seldom hear our own voice, but other voices come in loud and clear. We never really discover who WE are.

The Psalmist continues his comparison. “They [the wicked] say, how does God know?…surely in vain I have kept my heart pure. I’ve washed my hands in innocence because I have been stricken every morning”. In his own human observation, he sees no use in developing a righteous life. It takes too much energy and pays few dividends. His conclusion is “when I pondered this, it was troublesome in my heart”. He was on the borderline of becoming a cynic; there is no profit in serving God.

In this day of great advantages, we live in nice homes, drive nice cars and enjoy the abundance that we have achieved. Does it ever bother us that we have compared ourselves to others and not to God? The author of this Psalm is at this point in his life. He became troubled as he compared these two ways of life. Which way of life was to his advantage?

In his struggle, he finally finds the answer. “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came to the sanctuary of God”. What did he see as he took this whole issue to God and meditated on it?

“Surely You have set them in slippery places; you cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors. Like a dream when one awakes, Oh Lord when aroused, thou wilt despise their form”.  [verses 18-20]

I think there are times in all of our lives when God seems far away. In those times, we tend to make our decisions based on what we see and what we hear. Those decisions can set us on “the slippery slope” of dependence on self and what I see and hear, and not on God.

As the Psalmist returns to the sanctuary and sees things from God’s perspective, note how he changes.
“When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant, I was like a beast. Nevertheless, I am continually with thee. Thou has taken ahold of my right hand.”

I am amazed at the difference it makes when we view life through God’s lens. There was an old chorus that we sang in the church that went like this;
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
As we look at His glory and grace.”

Life will always be out of focus when we neglect listening to the voice of God. It is impossible not to compare as we look and listen to the world we are in. Wherever your “sanctuary” is, visit it often and listen to what you hear.

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