"Surely God is good...to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
- Psalm 73:1-3 NIV
I recently heard from a lady who had been devoted to the Lord for many years, but who was going through some very difficult times, and was having some serious doubts about her faith. She explained to me how she couldn't help but notice all of the ungodly people around her who were constantly sinning and mistreating others, but were prospering and being blessed more than most believers she knew. She said that just thinking about it was upsetting and tormenting her constantly. And she began to wonder if living for the Lord was really worth it after all.
Unfortunately, this woman's sentiments are all too common among God's people, even among some who have walked with the Lord for many years. Perhaps this is why God and His people address these very issues throughout the pages of the Bible. In Psalm 73, the author talks about how he almost lost faith when he became envious of the proud and wicked. (v.2-3) He records his lament over the fact that he may have been wrong to be so devoted to the Lord. He says: "Have I been wasting my time? Why take the trouble to be pure? All I get out of it is trouble and woe--every day and all day long!" (v.13-14 TLB) Then he reveals that he is suffering the same kind of torment that the lady who wrote me was dealing with. "When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me." (v.16 NIV) And this is one of the main reasons why I stopped dwelling on the prosperity of the wicked a long time ago. I have found that it causes a heaviness in my soul--an oppression that leads to depression. And I have found that one of the best antidotes for this problem is to follow the advice that the Lord gives us in Proverbs 3:5 (AMP): "Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding." The psalmist goes on to say that his faith and hope are renewed by a revelation of God's truth: "Then one day I went into God's sanctuary to meditate, and thought about the future of these evil men...an instant end to all their happiness, an eternity of terror." (v.17,19 TLB)
David has some very wise words on this subject in Psalm 37. He says: "Never envy the wicked! Soon they fade away like grass and disappear. Trust in the Lord instead. Be kind and good to others." (v.1-3 TLB) Putting our trust in God and doing good will help us to keep a heavenly perspective of things. The Lord didn't give us His Holy Spirit to do what everyone else does. He gave it to us to empower us to do the right thing, even when it looks as though we'll receive no recognition or reward for it. David goes on to say, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." (v.4 NIV) When we keep our eyes on God and determine to please Him in all that we do, He has promised to bless us with the things that we want and need most. This not only includes material things, but things that money can't buy--such as peace, joy, fulfillment, and purpose and meaning for our lives. These are all things that the Bible says the wicked can never have. The wicked cannot claim God's promises, which are an inheritance reserved only for His people. And they can never receive ready answers to their prayers the way that those who belong to Christ can. Most of all, they will never know the indescribable joy of fellowshipping with the living God, walking in His presence, and spending eternity with Him in heaven.
Envy the wicked? I don't think so. These people need our pity and our prayers. The psalmist had it right when he wrote: "A single day in Your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. O Lord almighty, happy are those who trust in You"! (Psalm 84:10,12 NLT)
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times I focused on the prosperity of the wicked, instead of the blessed rewards of serving You. Give me a compassion for the lost of this world that will move me to pray for them, set a Christlike example for them, and minister to them as Your Spirit leads me to. Thank You that as I concentrate on pleasing You, my life will be filled with the peace, joy, meaning and purpose that belong to me in Christ!
- J. M. Farro