“Don’t let your heart envy sinners” is what I read in Proverbs. Sinners? Really? Who envies “sinners”? I mean, I can understand being envious of others who have more money, a bigger house, a nicer car, higher-paying job, better health, etc. But “sinners”? Really?
Yet as I reflect I realize that too often I fall into this trap – if I’m honest, I have to confess I too often envy the life the lost live, mistakenly thinking I’ve missed out on something. And I don’t think I’m alone in this… I hear this type of talk all the time from those who became Christians later in life (rather than early on) – they talk about the “sins of youthful indiscretion” when they were younger, but they talk about it as “yea, those were the good ol’ days when I had lots of fun, but now that I’m older I need to start acting my age and be mature and responsible.” There’s almost a sense that, given the choice, the person would make the same mistakes again because it really was so much fun and the consequences were not so bad after all – it’s almost an attitude of pride towards their sin. Now I certainly can’t judge what another person really feels or thinks, so I am making an assumption here; I’m just making that assumption by what I see and hear.
I’m reading through the book of Proverbs with the leadership group from my church, something I first mentioned in this post, and when I read the 23:17-18 it really challenged me. I actually like the way the New Message puts the verse: “Don’t for a minute envy careless rebels.” Too many times I look around and go, “Wow, how come I work so hard and try to do what God has called me to do, to live honorably and obey his will, and that person there is living so far from God and yet they have a better paying job, a bigger house, and a new car. How come they don’t seem to struggle with <fill in the blank>? How come none of their family members ever get sick? Why doesn’t their car break down and need a repair and mine does? It just doesn’t seem fair.” (and before you go there with the comments I know that life’s not fair, so you don’t need to remind me of that :))
I see this happening not just with individuals, but also within families – even church families. I can not even count the number of churches I’ve know that have pastor envy, youth group envy, band envy, building envy, ministry envy, and so on – and the negative results that come from that envy… They look at how God is moving through another pastor or church and think, “We need to have and then our church could be better.”
But these attitudes and thoughts are not what scripture promises nor is it what this proverb advises. We (I?) are (am) to focus on building a healthy fear of the Lord – of living in an abiding respect, admiration, and love of God through the grace given us in Jesus Christ. Because our (my) future is ultimately not contingent upon my house, my car, my job, or even my health; it’s contingent upon my relationship with God through Jesus.
And through that relationship, I am reminded, God has given me “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms” and made me a “co-heir with Christ” (see Rom 8:17 and Eph 1:3). And for that reason the lost will one day envy us.