Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills. (NIV)
Imagine a suburban couple enjoying life and family and home and work despite the inevitable hiccups that disrupt human life on earth. Imagine a new neighbour moving in who seems to have no such hiccups. Contentment goes out the window. Suddenly, what seemed like a reasonable, up and down sort of life is not good enough.
In the words of this Psalm, our feet may slip, we may lose our foothold as we immerse ourselves in envy. Our children aren’t as well behaved; our home is not as spacious; our jobs are not as fulfilling; our church is not as good as the ones nearby.
All this envy is mistaken on two grounds. One is that what we envy in other people may not reflect their own reality. They may be busily envying us as they face their own problems which they have largely kept hidden from others. Those who seem to have no struggles will likely have struggles that we don’t know about.
And it is mistaken because it causes us to lose gratitude for what we have. If we are preoccupied with wishing we had what others have, we will lose sight of what we already do have. We lose gratitude, we lose contentment. Compulsive comparison is the death of true contentment.