One cannot ask why bad things happen to good people without also feeling the same tinge of injustice when we contemplate why good things happen to bad people. This is the question that anguished the Psalmist. He found himself in terrible distress and agony of soul. He says, “My feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. ”
The Psalmist was experiencing a very old problem; one that is still with us today. He had begun to observe the prosperity of the wicked. He began to notice that the ungodly, the unregenerate, the un-repented people; those who had no need for God, who did not acknowledge God or believe in God; who did their own thing, lived for themselves, behaved as they pleased, seemed to be having a good time in this world. The unbelievers who made and lived by their own rules, played their own songs, and danced to their own music was enjoying all the wealth and pleasures of the world, whereas he himself, a godly man, was having a very difficult and hard time. He laments, “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. ” Nothing seemed to go wrong with the ungodly. It seemed as if by some special privilege they were exempt from the strains and struggles of daily living. They are always enjoying prosperity. But as for himself, he says, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. ”
The Psalmist wondered why he was having so many problems and so much trouble in his life, while the ungodly were having none. So he began to think about it and ponder it until it became an obsession. He was on the verge of saying what many of us find ourselves asking, is there anything in religion? Is there any point in trying to live the Christian life? Is it worthwhile trying to live right and do right and walk right? Is there any purpose in trying to live the godly life?
The Psalmist, like all of us, was tempted by the Evil One. Satan wants us to reject Christ and all that He stands for. Envy is his deceptive tool which he uses to draw us away from the godly life. To envy is to desire what you do not have. It may be wealth, talent, good looks, intelligence, youthfulness and a thousand other things. Envy makes us mean and evil toward the ones we envy.
Matthew tells us that it was out of envy that the people handed Jesus over to Pilate and demanded that He be crucified. Jesus said envy comes from within and makes a person unclean. Paul said, love does not envy and those who envy will not inherit the kingdom of God. Paul told Titus (and us) “we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. ” But when we found salvation; when we experienced the love of God our Savior, when we experienced His mercy and forgiveness, rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, all those old things passed away and all things became new. Envy passed away and was replaced by the love of God in Jesus Christ. James tells us, “If you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. ”
If you find yourself experiencing feelings of envy, stop and do some serious self-talk. This is what the Psalmist did. He found himself on the slippery slopes of envy, but he began to talk to himself. He did not say a word to anybody but to himself he said, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. ” The psalmist was saved from an awkward position. He was slipping to Satan’s strategy but he talked to himself. He told himself, “Now if I say this – if I tell how I feel, I will offend the children of God. ” So he took a stand. He could not understand, so he took a stand on what he knew to be right. This held him firm and kept him from falling away from the faith.
There are many times when we do not understand what is happening to us; when we do not understand our experiences; when we do not understand how providence works. But, if we will just take a stand on what we know to be right, it will keep us from falling.
The Psalmist continues and states that when “entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. He began to understand that there was no need for him to be envious of the prosperity of the wicked because their prosperity is in reality but an illusion. He began to understand that the ancient deceiver had played tricks with his vision and used slight of hand to distract him from the reality of God.
But after entering the sanctuary, the Psalmist realized that prosperity is but an image, a fashion show of what is to pass away; like a pleasant dream that pleases us only for a little while – while we are asleep – but when we awaken, we discover it was not real. The psalmist then admonishes himself for his own stupidity. He said, “I was senseless and ignorant” to envy the wicked; to be jealous of the perishing. His thoughts then returned to his own happiness in God when he realized how much more he had in the Creator.
We need not concern ourselves when good things happen to bad people. We keep our focus on God, our Creator.
Scriptural Reference: Psalms 73.
Sidebar Quote: Hatred is active, and ENVY passive dislike; there is but one step from ENVY to hate. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D. D. , is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach which can be reviewed on her site. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, is expected to be available soon.
You are welcome to visit AMEN Ministries: Your Soul's Service Station for spiritual refreshing, soul edification, browse our newly expanded mini shopping mall or review our recommended books you may want to add to your personal library.
Blessings to all!