It is easy to say that we are not striving to keep up with everyone around us, but a simple look at the average person’s lifestyle says otherwise. While the saying might just be an idiom, to fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived in our culture as demonstrating socioeconomic inferiority. We are content with our current cell phone until our neighbor gets a smart phone. We are content with our paid for used car until our friends buy new ones. We are content with our modest home until a family member moves into a nicer neighborhood than ours. What is it about “the Joneses” that stir our hearts toward discontentment?
As a believer in Christ I am told in scripture that I brought nothing into the world and that I will certainly take nothing out (I Timothy 6:7). I am reminded that if I have food and clothing I should be content (I Timothy 6:8). I am warned to not covet other’s things and to be content with what things God has given me (Hebrews 13:5).
Therefore, it would seem that contentment would be easy for a Christian, but that is not always the case. It helps to realize that material things and stuff can be very deceiving. The fact is that Americans are in debt. We are not buying newer and better things because we have more money. Living a facade, we are simply buying stuff and going deeper in debt. From 1997 to 2007, America’s credit card debt
balances increased 75%. In 2010, the US census bureau reported that US citizens have over $886 billion in credit card debt and that figure was expected to rise to $1.177 trillion by the end of the year. The report stated that each card holder had an average credit card debt of $5,100 and that number was projected to reach $6,500 by the end of the year. We are not as prosperous as we look. According to the Wall Street Journal 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and the Department of Commerce says that the US savings rate is (negative) -.6%. I heard Dave Ramsey say on the radio the other day that “normal is broke!”
So the question is, Do I really want to keep up with the Joneses? Do I really want to be “normal” according to society?
Let’s be realistic, some might say. We live in this world. We are a part of this world. This world and its things are a reality that we must deal with. All of this is true. We do live in this world. The Bible says that there are cares of this world (Mark 4:19). There is also a wisdom that is of this world (I Corinthians 3:19). There is a course that people follow in this world (Ephesians 2:2). And there is a god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). But the Bible also says that the “cares of this world” causes us to become unfruitful. The “wisdom of this world” is foolishness with God. The “course of this world” works in the children of disobedience. And the “god of this world” blinds the minds of people who do not believe. This is why we are told in Romans 12:2 to “be not conformed to this world”.
So whether we are talking about conforming to the “Joneses” materialistically or conforming to the “Joneses” physically or conforming to the “Joneses” mentally, we should not desire to keep up with them. A Christian should not be “normal”. We should be a peculiar people, set apart, and not conformed to this world and its way of thinking. Instead “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,” Romans 12:2.