The Joneses — that family down the street or (nowadays) on Facebook who always have the best of everything. As the outsider looking in, it seems like life is amazing for them. Maybe it’s the car that never breaks down or the house that’s always immaculate or the expensive vacations that you watch them take while you pack up the kiddos for yet another trek to the campground.
Whatever it is that sends pangs of jealously through your body, it can be enough to make you think that your life is lacking some serious comforts and joys. And for some of us, it can even lead to some painful credit card debt. But here’s the nagging truth: when you’re Catholic, you aren’t supposed to care about that stuff. Easier said than done. We’re only human after all. So how do we put an end to our natural tendency to want what others have, to look at the grass on the other side and not wonder at its emerald brilliance?
First and foremost, we should be praying for ourselves. There are an infinite number of people we are praying for at any given time but forgetting to pray for our own souls and our own betterment can be detrimental. In order to be the person that God intended for us to be — whether it’s mother or father, wife or husband, pro-life activist, teacher, priest, or volunteer — we need to be asking for help. Perhaps one of the parts of life that you require the help of the saints and God with is jealousy. If so, include in your daily life the prayer to be grateful for what you have and to be happy for everyone else for what they have.
Remember what’s important
As Christians, we know that earth is not our home and our final destination is not the grave.
“You can’t take it with you” is a saying for a reason and our friends and neighbors who are overly exuberant about their new gadgets and toys are not focusing on what really matters. So what is it that really matters? When we die and face our personal judgement, God probably isn’t going to have a checklist of material items that we succeeded in purchasing.
I would imagine God is more interested in how we spent the time and talents he gave us. Did we love not just our family and our friends, but our neighbors and our enemies? Did we give our money to those who didn’t have any? Did we give our food to those who were hungry? Did we clothe the naked? Did we help the orphans or the women facing unplanned pregnancies?
Did we use our unique God-given talents to do good in the world? Or did we shun all of those people and wait for someone else to help them? Because for all those times that we felt like we were suffering because of a lack of material belongings, someone else was actually suffering from a lack of clean water or food. Some have even been so low that they have turned to abortion. Where were we when they needed us?
Focus on your true reward
The prosperity gospel is a Protestant belief that God will reward us with riches in this world. The idea is that if we’re truly faithful and obedient we won’t suffer. We’ll have all the material things we want and we’ll be healthy, too. As the parent of a child with a chronic and life-threatening health condition, I know of families who were told that if they were truly faithful and not holding onto some secret sin than their child would be healed. We even saw that mentality played out in the movie Miracles from Heaven.
Our Catholic faith teaches us something much different. It teaches us that suffering brings us closer to Christ. It teaches us that we must give everything we have to others. We must pour ourselves out and sacrifice our comforts. Our true reward is the gift of heaven. There is nothing on this earth that can ever compare. To welcome suffering goes against everything our human nature screams at us to do, but our souls and our eternity require it.
Look for new adventures
Life is made up of slices of joy-filled moments. Even without all of the material comforts of this world, life is beautiful.
Fill your days with new adventures that don’t include shopping or spending money on lavish items or trips. If your usual vacation is camping, then your children will likely grow up with incredibly fond memories of these trips. But if you’re looking for something new, try a simple change by inviting friends to accompany you. Or simply switch the locale of your next trip. You could even get together with extended family to rent a beach cottage at a fraction of the cost.
If your children want new toys, try having a toy swap with some other Catholic families. If your house needs some fixing, gather your family together and do the work yourself. You may have a handy friend who would be willing to help and you can return the favor by sharing your talents with his family. Thinking outside the box can not only help you stay financially afloat but can create some of the best memories of your life.
Being financially secure, or even rich isn’t bad in and of itself. But in the end, it won’t matter how many cars or vacations the Joneses have under their belt compared to you. It will only matter that you answered the call of God in whatever he is asking of you.