As best I remember, it began the day Mark brought his new football to Zolfo Springs Elementary. Suddenly, he was the most popular boy in first grade. I had previously held the title (at least, in my memory), but Mark usurped my position. All the kids gathered around Mark at recess. He was the new king of the playground.
I went home that afternoon and demanded my mother buy me a new football. I wanted to reclaim my position, and I was sure a new football would do it. My mother was old school. You could threaten to hold your breath until she gave into your demands, and she would briskly say "Go right ahead. I'm cooking fried chicken tonight, and your brother will get both legs." Manipulating a kid with threats of fried chicken is cruel and unusual punishment, and I caved every time.
The agony of recess continued. Mark was the king of the playground, and I was a has been. It was a long fall and winter.
Spring came, the orange trees were in bloom, and it was baseball season. Mama in a spurt of generosity bought me a baseball. I'm not sure why. We lived a mile from the nearest neighbors, so there was no one to throw it to. My dog Moe just ran off with it when I threw it to him.
Lying in bed that night, it hit me: I could bring my baseball to school! Maybe my baseball was my chance to regain the recess throne.
It worked like a charm. Mark's football was forgotten, and we played baseball (or a first-grade version of it) all through recess. Once again, I was the king.
Aren't you glad we grow out of such childish thinking? Aren't you glad no adult is ever envious? Aren't you glad adults don't compete with each other? Aren't you glad no one measures self-worth based on possession comparison?
Reality is we compare the size of our houses, the newness of our cars and achievements of our children. Adults haven't come that far from recess.
Salvation, among many other things, means you no longer have to play the comparison game. Jesus comes to teach us a different way to live. It's not wrong to want nice things or have nice things. It is toxic to base your human value on what you own.
That's why the Apostle Paul said to us, "I know both how to make do with little, and I know how make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of contentment - whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
Your worth is not based on what you have, but who you have. If you have Jesus, you have everything you need.
Is it time for you to get off the comparison treadmill and be content with Jesus?
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.