A researcher at Harvard studied the motivations behind individuals who experienced extreme financial success. The question the researcher was hoping to answer: What keeps extremely wealthy individuals motivated even after they have accumulated enough wealth to last many lifetimes?
The answer is simple in that even though wealth provided significant satisfaction; the individuals weren’t completely satisfied. The reason for some level of dissatisfaction (despite having amassed vast fortunes) was because their level of satisfaction derived from two points of comparison.
Am I doing better than I was before?
Am I doing better than other people?
The goal of satisfaction in wealth is a moving goal because satisfaction only comes from knowing I am doing better than “before.” Therefore, no matter how much wealth a person accumulates, more is needed to be satisfied.
Worse than that is comparing with others. A person might be wealthy but suddenly experience tremendous growth in their wealth and, as such, becomse the wealthiest person in their neighborhood. But, because satisfaction requires doing better than “before,” a new house is necessary. So, this person moves to an even better community with a grander home with more impressive neighbors. But now, the person is no longer the wealthiest on the block. In fact, in this new neighborhood, they rank very low. So, the quest for more wealth continues.
If the individual finally outranks all the new neighbors, they will seek a new home – because they must keep outpacing what was before.
The cycle never ends. Satisfaction never comes.
One researcher of the ultra-wealthy grew so weary of the research that he was pleased when he finished his work because he found it so depressing.
In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells a parable of vineyard workers hired throughout the day. Some were hired at the beginning of the day. Others weren’t hired until the day was almost over. At the end of the day, though, the owner of the vineyard paid all the workers the same amount regardless of how much they worked. All the workers were paid a full day’s wage.
Those hired at the beginning of the day were upset and said this in Matthew 20:12, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.”
They tried to mask their envy with words of justice. They say the others only worked an hour while they had to bear the heat of the day. However, their own words betray the real motivation of their hearts, “…you have made them equal to us…”
Were they doing better than before? Yes, that morning, they had been unemployed. Now, they had a full day’s work, a full day’s pay, and a connection with a landowner that might lead to more work.
Were they doing better than others? No, they were all made equal by the owner. So, they were filled with dissatisfaction, envy, and anger.
Of course, the point of Jesus’ parable has nothing to do with wealth. But it has everything to do with comparison. Understanding comparison is critically essential in the body of Christ because comparison has no place in a community that is defined by grace. Why?
Because grace says we all need grace. It is certainly true we aren’t all the same. An argument could be made that we don’t all need grace the same. However, the point of grace is this: we may all need it for different reasons; however, without it, we are all the same: dead in our trespasses and sins.
One of the ways we can discern we have drifted away from grace and are instead playing the comparison game is when we grow weary of extending grace to others and when we fail to give one another the benefit of the doubt. We play comparison games when we decide we know what is going on in other people’s hearts, and what motivates them.
We are well served as individuals, and as Christ’s church, when we decide we aren’t going to play the comparison game or the judgment game. Instead, we agree that we all need grace from Jesus and each other. Since His grace for us will never run out, we will have plenty to give each other if we are willing.
I look forward to being with you this Sunday as we celebrate the work of God in Jesus Christ together! This Sunday, we will be seeking God through His Word in Matthew 20:1-16.
See you Sunday,