Reading: Psalm 73
A psalm of Asaph
Surely God is good to Israel,
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.
They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?” (NIV).
The last of the Ten Commandments warns us against the sin of covetousness. In one important respect this commandment is different from the other nine. Covetousness or envy is a sin of the mind. It is theft in germ form. It is the seed thought of adultery. Envy is the precondition of a sinful act, not the act itself.
Frozen apples on a neighbor’s apple tree — photo by David Kitz
Here in Psalm 73 the psalmist catches himself on a slippery slope leading to a more serious sin. 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.
I certainly can identify with the psalmist. I think we all have had moments when we thought in our hearts that God is not fair. Why is that person prospering when I am not? To the best of my abilities I am doing everything right—by the book—yet the road is hard and the rewards are meagre. Meanwhile, arrogant unbelievers are prospering—seemingly blessed by God. Where is the justice in that?
The root issue here is envy—our envy. God is not accountable to us; we are accountable to Him. Our hearts need tending, not God’s heart. In His time and His way God will deal with the arrogant and evil person. It’s my responsibility to deal with my thoughts and the attitude of my heart.
Response: LORD God, as I begin this new year help me to tend to the garden of my own heart. When envy raises its head, help me to decapitate that thought. I fix my affections on you and not the things of this world. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you have moments of envy? What works for you in countering such thoughts?