This morning I went out snowshoeing. Because we've had a mixture of snow, rain, and freezing rain recently, there were stretches of my trek where the rain had washed down the hill, forming a smooth sheet of ice on an uphill grade.
Now, if I hadn't been wearing my snowshoes, I would have found it just about impossible to make it up that slope without sliding backwards two feet for every foot I moved forward.
But my snowshoes have vicious-looking sawtooth crampons on the bottom, that do a great job of digging into the ice and giving me the traction I need.
I didn't slip even once, on my way up the hill, or on my way back down.
As I was walking, I thought of two verses. One of them was a verse I read just yesterday, from the book of Psalms. Psalm 73, speaking of the wicked, says:
The Psalm tells us that those who live with unrighteousness might appear to have it all together, they might appear to be on solid footing, but in reality, they're like someone on a sheet of ice without snowshoes. Sooner or later, no matter how "together" they seem to be, they'll slip up, and everything falls apart.
Now, if I were to ask you, "How do you avoid that slippery place?" you might be tempted to answer, "Don't get involved in unrighteousness." That's not a bad answer, but it's actually not what the Psalmist says. In verses 2 and 3, he writes:
Isn't that interesting? The Psalmist says that it is envy that almost put him on the slippery slope. That makes sense, doesn't it? It is our envy that causes us to take the same shortcuts the unrighteous take in order to reach our goals.
I guess that means contentment is like a good pair of snowshoes. I wouldn't want to be without it!
It's funny the things you remember from your childhood -- often it's not the big events that stick in your memory, but the small, silly little things. I remember breakfast time. Specifically, I remember the Battle of the Toast.
You see, every morning my mom would toast up and butter a big old stack of toast and put it on the breakfast table. Right in the middle of the table. I had two older brothers, and the Battle of the Toast was a war to see who would get the most toast for breakfast. It was a silly thing; none of us needed more than a couple slices of toast with jam or peanut butter, but none of us ever thought about what we needed, or even what we wanted. Instead we only thought about what "the other guy" was getting. And our desires were defined by what "the other guy" had. Thus, if my brother ate four pieces of toast, then I just had to have four pieces of toast. Didn't matter if I was already full; I had to keep up.
Eventually, Mom put a stop to the Battle of the Toast by carefully counting out how many slices of bread she toasted, and limiting us to two slices apiece. Seems kind of silly now, doesn't it?
But this is the cost of envy -- the cost of looking at the other person and comparing what I have to what they have. I stop thinking about what is good (or even what is healthy) and I just have to have what they have. It makes no difference if I need it, makes no difference if it is good for me. I want it.
Just like Peter tells us to put aside deceit, malice, hypocrisy, and slander, he also tells us (1 Peter 2:1) to put aside envy. Envy is the mentality behind the Battle of the Toast -- it is the desire for what someone else has. And we will never be healthy as long as we measure our life and our possessions in comparison to what someone else has.