When You Don't Like What You See in the Mirror

“It is an observable fact that most people don’t like themselves, in spite of being, for the most part, decent enough human beings . . .” says Phillip Lopate, in Writing Creative Nonfiction.

I thought about Lopate’s quote today, because I looked into the mirror of God’s Word and saw something I disliked. It wasn’t the smile lines around my mouth, the crows’ feet near my eyes, or the less-than-perfect skin on my face.

I looked into the mirror and saw King Ahab. Eeew.

It’s a curious thing, how when we look into the perfect law of God, we see the juxtaposition of our shortcomings and sins. We see who we could and should be side by side with who we are and aren’t. I suspect this is why, in Galatians 3:24, Paul called the law a “schoolmaster”: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

With no standard to compare ourselves, we look pretty good—better than some of our neighbors, and certainly not as bad as others. But when we look into God’s law, which is really just a template for his perfection, we fall woefully short.

This is how God and his law used wicked King Ahab to show me my sinful family resemblance.

Ahab was rich. The king of Samaria, he had a beautiful palace, all the money he needed, land, horses, and a wife. Oh, boy, did he have a wife, but that’s a subject for another post.

Instead of being thankful for all God had blessed him with, Ahab turned his lustful eyes over the wall onto his neighbor’s vineyard. Now Ahab didn’t need Naboth’s vineyard. He had vineyards galore. And gardeners to tend them and servants to pick their fruit.

But Ahab was greedy. He wanted what he didn’t have. Sometimes I wish for what I didn't have, too.

Where does this continual lust for more come from? I hate to blame everything on our sinful natures, but the apostle James connected the dots on this one:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight” (Jas. 4:1).

Our lust for more and our discontentment with what God gives us comes from our human nature—a nature that, left to itself, will never, ever be satisfied. So what’s the antidote when our coveting eyes glance over at our neighbor’s smiling family, intact marriage, pain-free body, etc., etc., etc. . . .?

“. . . be content with what you have,” Hebrews 13:5 tell us, “because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

If Ahab had been thankful instead of greedy and ungrateful, I think he'd have been much happier. Could this be true of us as well?

Forgive us, Father, for allowing what we don’t have to steal the joy from what we do. Thank you that the boundary lines have fallen for us in pleasant places. We have a good inheritance. Help us remember if we seek first the kingdom of God and your righteousness, everything we need will be added to our lives. And you will send no sorrow with it. Thank you for the perfect law of liberty that promises us freedom from lust and greed and discontentment. And thank you for your Son, who promises never to leave us or forsake us. Truly, Father, what more do we need?

If you’re struggling with covetousness today, will you join me in listing God’s good gifts and saying thank you? It will do much to banish the sin of grumbling greed from our hearts.

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