Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the LORD always. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 23:17-18 (NASB)
Who do you envy? Is it a famous person? Someone who makes a living off of sexual innuendo and getting other people to lust after them? Is it a rich person? Someone who shuts their ears to the cries of the poor while they increase their own luxury? The Bible says we should be careful who we envy. Envy in itself is akin to covetousness which breaks one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:17). To covet is to be driven by envy to want what someone else has. But do you know what's worse than coveting? Coveting after the yield of sin, because it has the potential to cause even more destruction in your life.
It is tempting to envy the wicked. Often we can relate to the psalmist who says, "For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked... Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth" (Psalm 73:3, 12). Often as we look around us it seems the innocent suffer without end while the wicked prosper. It's easy to conclude with the psalmist, "Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence." It's easy to think that we are missing the boat... that we would be much better off if we began patterning our lives after the prosperous wicked. But God's antidote for this type of wrong-headed thinking is to urge us to live in the fear of the Lord. Why? What does the fear of the Lord have to do with envying sinners? The next verse gives us the clue we need. For those who live in the fear of the Lord, there is a future and their hope will not be cut off.
This leads us to the same conclusion the psalmist finds: "Then I perceived their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment!" (Psalm 73:17-19a). There is no future hope for the sinner. Their future is God's righteous judgment on their sin. That is why fear of the Lord is the fitting antidote. Fear of the Lord reminds one that God will one day judge the living and the dead, and it urges us to obey His commands to avoid judgment. When we live in the fear of the Lord we preserve our hope and future by choosing to follow God's commands.
So as you find yourself tempted to envy sinners, read Psalm 73 and remind yourself how it ends. "For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works" (Psalm 73:27-28). And if you have not yet submitted your life to the fear of the Lord by giving your life to Jesus, then choose to repent of your life of sin and ask forgiveness today, surrendering yourself to His way of living life for good. (For more information on becoming a Christian, click here.)
For further reading...
- Read all of Psalm 73.