In case you were wondering, there is not a Ford Focus in the photo above. There is a Ford, however. Car enthusiasts will recognize it as a Ford Roush P-51 Mustang, with an MSRP back in the late 2000s in excess of $65,000, which was about ~130% of the median annual household income ($50,000) in the United States.
It also made it among the least expensive cars in what we called “Lieutenant’s Row.” We called it that because most of those cars – including Ferraris, Mercedes, Aston-Martins, and more – were owned by young foreign officers stationed in the United States for a few years and reaping the benefits of a generous overseas allowance above their normal salaries, strong European currency, and the low cost-of-living of North-Central Texas. A few years earlier, a tradition had started where these lieutenants would purchase or lease new or “gently used” cars like these upon their arrival in the US and then sell them 2-3 years later when they finished training. BTW, If you’re in the market for a used, high-mileage supercar, I’d suggest checking out the desert SouthWest.
At the time, I was a more senior officer, commanding a multinational squadron in which many of these young lieutenants were being trained, and though it would have been fun, our finances (and desire to be able to carry more than just a photograph of our kids in our vehicle) supported somewhat less-flashy transportation.
In fact, on a different day, I took another picture of Lieutenant’s row and posted it on social media with a caption along the lines of “Guess which cars belong to the lieutenants and which belongs to the lieutenant colonel.”
And certainly, compared to the four somewhat sportier cars pictured, my green 9-year-old Honda with scratches and dents (many accumulated in our own overseas tour), nearly 200,000 miles on the odometer, and doors which sometimes didn’t like to open or close, which the Internet tells me was worth about $3,000 at the time might be considered more humble than, say, a $170,000 Aston-Martin DB9 (the right-most car in this photo).
And maybe it was. A 19-20 year old “kid,” fresh out of school, driving a Ferrari and earning 2-3 times as much as his commanding officer – if that’s not crazy, what is?
But you want to know something else that is crazy? If the $3,000 that the van was worth, had been my annual salary, would have made me richer than roughly 70% of the world’s population. And to be honest, I had another car at that time that was newer, and together with that van represented more than the annual income of about 98% of the world’s population.
So as unjust as it may appear that that young lieutenant drives a car that cost more than most folks’ houses, here’s another thing that should appear unjust: I admit it. I’m a pastor, and I’m also a “one-percenter.”
And chances are that if you’re reading this, you are too.
I challenge you. Go to www.globalrichlist.com, enter your annual income, and press the button.
If you’re making the national average of ~$50,000 a year, you are not only a “one-percenter,” you are in the top 0.31%! In fact, if you make anything more than $32,000 per year (about $15/hr), you are still richer than 99% of the population.
Even if you’re making minimum wage ($7.25/hr), you’re well-within the top 10%, and far above the average laborer in Zimbabwe who makes about $.56 in that same timeframe.
Now hear me, friends. This is not to deny that it costs more to live in Houston than it does to live in Harare. This is not to deny that the struggles with poverty in this country and others are real, and difficult, and in so many ways unjust. This is not to say that those who have plenty should not be giving sacrificially to those who lack. The Bible tells us otherwise – for if one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:16)
What I’m saying is that we need to stop comparing ourselves with others, whether they are in a “better” state or “worse.” I am saying that, no matter how rich you are in this world, there are others richer, and no matter how impoverished you are, there are others in straits more dire.
And, this is not just to do with finances, or even with the world’s definition of “success.” We carry these comparisons to matters of faith. There are people who appears”holier” than you, and others who appear more “carnal.” There are those with stronger faith, and those whose faith is weaker. There are Christ-followers who are more mature and those who are less so.
Without doubt, we should help those who struggle in the faith, and ask for help in with our own weaknesses. We should deny neither the work of God in maturing his followers, nor the work still left to do in all of us.
But we need to stop making the comparisons between ourselves and others! Because any time we spend comparing ourselves to others is a waste of the time, effort, and resources with which God has gifted us – gifts he intends to use to make us more like him, not more like others
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith… – Hebrews 12:1-2a
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. – Isaiah 26:3
Christian, a Christ focus is better than a Ford Focus… or even a Ferrari… any day of the week.
Can you remember times where God has worked powerfully in your life to turn your eyes away from others and back to him? We’d love to hear your story.