From The Guardian: “Psychological and social science research supports that living amid the wealthy even when you are upper-middle class is pretty bad for your mental health. … low social rank opens people up to psychological disorders such as depression. Essentially, if you are surrounded by those who ‘outrank’ you, it is likely to affect your identity in insidious ways.”
The secular world ponders the effects of trying to keep up with the joneses, the futility of which Solomon observed long ago: “And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
God’s Tenth Commandment in Exodus 20 tells us, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house… or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (verse 17) So comparing yourself to your neighbor is not just a pointless venture but an offense to God. But it’s also something else. A loving God desires for us not to bring harm to ourselves, and covetousness, as evidenced by the research mentioned above, has detrimental effects on our own lives.
Why does covetousness lead to depression? Because when we obsess over what our neighbor has it takes our focus off what we have and puts it on what we think is missing.
Consequently, we are failing to accomplish another thing that brings glory to God and also impacts our own mental health: Thankfulness. An abundance of research lauds the benefits of gratitude, something we hear about often around Thanksgiving. One of the hallmarks of the fools decried in Romans 1:21 is that “although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God not gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” A heart that covets has neither the vision nor capacity to thank God for what we already have.
The covetousness forbidden in the 10th commandment is basically a form of the idolatry forbidden in the first, where we ignore God’s provision to us and look to objects or status for our ultimate satisfaction and identity. For God’s glory and for our own mental well-being, we can do better. Count your blessings and let your neighbor keep track of theirs.