Cultivate a Faith Perspective
Yael Eckstein | January 20, 2023
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” — Exodus 20:17
Today, I continue with a new devotional series on joy, simcha — the joy found in the grateful acceptance and celebration of each day God has given to us. Join me as we explore teachings on the joy found in connecting with God and with others.
The rabbis in the Talmud taught, “Who is wealthy? One who is satisfied with his lot.”
I heard a story from a Jerusalem rabbi which illustrates this point. The rabbi recalled being a little boy when the first man set foot on the moon. He watched the television broadcast with his older brother, and both sat glued to the television in awe of the astronauts.
The rabbi remembered saying to his brother, “I feel bad for the guy who has to sit in the shuttle while the other astronauts got to land and walk on the moon! He was so close to the moon, and yet he couldn’t walk on the moon.”
His older brother replied, “I’m sure he was fine. The astronaut in the shuttle understood that if he left, both men would be stranded on the moon forever! He knew how important his role was, and so he wasn’t jealous of the other two.”
Cultivate a Faith Perspective
When I heard this story, it reminded me of a teaching on the Ten Commandments from one of the great Jewish commentaries on the Bible. The last of the Ten Commandments is the prohibition against coveting: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
The great 12th-century commentator Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra raised a question about this commandment. Coveting someone else’s possessions is a feeling, and feelings aren’t something we can order. We can’t order someone to be happy. We can’t order ourselves to be sad. How can God command us not to feel jealous?
The rabbi’s answer is that when it comes to wanting what other people have, we really do control how we feel. He explains that fundamental to faith in God is the knowledge that what others have is simply not meant for us. Period.
No matter how much we want the athletic prowess of a sports superstar or the brains of a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, no amount of thinking and wishing for it will make it happen. We ought to view what other people have in the same way.
Jealousy and coveting make us unhappy and frustrated. But when we follow Ibn Ezra’s advice and cultivate a faith perspective that what others have is simply irrelevant to me, we find ourselves happier, more satisfied, more aligned with God’s plan for our personal lives.
Do you struggle with jealousy? Take some prayer time today to thank God for all that you have. Discover the joy and happiness this perspective brings.