When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song:
“Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands!”
This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (NLT)
It is not always easy to be glad at someone else’s success. Saul couldn’t handle it. He had some military prowess but it seems David had even more. Even though David and Saul were on the same side, Saul’s main concern was his own reputation. Whenever we are primarily concerned for our own standing, we risk succumbing to envy.
I may not rest content with my own achievements or my own place in God’s scheme of things. I may instead resent the achievements and subsequent popularity of someone I come to see as a rival. There can be only one king of the castle.
If Saul had been thinking rightly, he might have been thankful for David’s successes given they were fighting the same enemy. But when ego becomes primary, when reputation and popularity become vitally important, the enemy so easily becomes the other person who seems to be doing better than me.
We may have done our job well. We may have achieved a measure of success even if failures punctuated our efforts. God may be pleased with us. But if we compulsively compare ourselves with others we will not be content. Thankfulness and satisfaction for what we have done will be replaced with envy for what others have done.
Compulsive comparisons spell the death of any chance of contentment.