Envy – The Suffering Righteous and the Successful Sinner
Envy. Sometimes it’s hard not to be envious… especially when it seems like you’re stuck sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else’s life progressing… and you are just existing day after day, month after month, and monotonous year after year. You may think that you’re current predicament is justification for envious thoughts. But I’m here to warn you of the danger in thinking like that. I know I’m talking to someone out there…
My dear friend, I’ve been there uncountable times. I’m here to tell you that whatever you are allowing to get under your skin, you need to get over it!! Tough love… that’s what this is. It was about thirteen years ago, during one of my many pity parties and licking my wounds that God broke through to me. He told me to open up my Bible to Psalm 77. Do you know what Psalm 77 is about? This still blows me away when I think about it.
Psalm 77 was written by someone who was feeling everything I was feeling. The psalmist cried out in deep distress to God! He wondered where God was or if He even cared about him. He wondered if God had rejected him forever! Did God’s promises fail? Has God forgotten to be compassionate? Friends, those are exactly the kind of things I was asking. He was overwhelmed, but the Psalmist’s focus suddenly changed – His FOCUS changed. Instead of thinking of himself, he put away all of his self-pity and doubts… and then he just worshiped. That’s how he eliminated his stress. That made me realize how powerful worship is. Whenever we’re at a loss or thrown for a loop, all we need to do is to put on the garments of praise, and a great exchange happens when we allow God to change our perspective… He gives us His life sustaining peace (You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26: 3).
But I really need to address envious thoughts… so if you will, open your Bible to Psalm 73. The great thing about the Bible is that it addresses real problems; this Psalm gives us an account of the conflict which the psalmist had with a strong, almost insurmountable temptation to envy the prosperity of wicked people. He tells us how he got into the temptation to envy, and then he tells us how he got out of that temptation and gained a victory over it…
“But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.
They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for!” Psalm 73: 2-7
There are many who have a great deal of this life in their hands, but nothing of the other life in their hearts. They are ungodly, live without the fear and worship of God, and yet they prosper and get on in the world, and not only are they rich, but they increase in riches. He observed that while wicked men prospered in their sin and irreverence, good people were in great affliction, and he himself in particular, which made him intensely envious. So much so, he found himself questioning the Sovereignty of God. He looked around and saw many of God’s people greatly at a loss. His afflictions were great—he was chastened and plagued every morning and nonstop. This he thought was very hard, that, when those who blasphemed God were in prosperity, he that worshipped God was under such great affliction.
We have seen what a strong temptation the psalmist was in – to envy prospering profaneness; now here we are told how he kept his footing and got the victory…
“Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to You. Yet I still belong to You; You hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but You? I desire You more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.” Psalm 73: 21-26
He foresaw the ruin of wicked people. Their prosperity has no firm ground; it is not built upon The Rock – Jesus Christ. Their destruction is sure, and sudden, and very great. They flourish for a time, but are undone forever. Their ruin is sure, inevitable, severe, and very dreadful. It is a total and final ruin: They are utterly consumed with terrors of the Almighty, whom they have made their enemy (Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? James 4: 4). Not the least degree of comfort or hope remains to them; the higher they were lifted up in their prosperity the sorer will their fall be.
The Psalmist declares his confidence in God’s presence and guidance. From birth to death, we are continually in God’s grip. But far more, we have the hope of the resurrection. Though our courage and strength may fail, we know that one day we will be raised to life to serve Him forever. He’s our security, and we have to cling to Him.
*** Because reality is in God, we should get as close to Him as we can in order to be realistic in this life. Take the time to read and meditate on this Psalm. Ask God to really show you things, and He will open up your understanding 🙂
“Who is this one? Look at her now. She arises from her Desert of Difficulty Clinging to her Beloved.” Songs 8:5