Vol. 4, No. 10
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In Psalm 73, which is called a Psalm of Asaph, the Psalmist says, "My feet were almost gone; my steps had well-nigh slipped." The reason was, "I was envious of the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
He thought (v. 5), "They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men." Since this attitude is not an unusual one today, it is worth our attention. It is true that in many cases the wicked prosper and do not seem to be in trouble as other men. Then it is easy to think, "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency" (v. 13).
The problem of the sufferings of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked is not a new one. Similar questions about the existence of evil and bad circumstances have been raised by good men whose faith was weak, or whose knowledge of God's Word was limited, as well as by atheists who deny the existence of God.
Asaph's problem was at least two-fold. First, he was envious when he saw the wicked prosper. He needed to know what we can know. First, "But godliness with contentment is great gain: for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out; but having food and covering we shall be therewith content" (1 Timothy 6:6-8). We need to know James 2:5, "Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him?"
The envy of the one who has more material things, and the desire to be like him, are two separate, but closely related sins. Covetousness is still idolatry, and is probably one of the most dangerous and least recognized sins we have. I have heard persons confess to murder, drunkenness, adultery, cursing, stealing and various other sins. I have never heard one confess to covetousness. Yet I have seen it evidenced hundreds of times.
Part of the solution for Asaph was found in verse 17, "Until I went into the sanctuary of God, and considered their latter end." We have an even better answer, for not only does God reveal that he will take care of their temporary prosperity in the latter end, and they will be cast down to destruction, he gives us Romans 8. That mountain peak of God's revelation has several verses that every person should memorize and repeat often. Note some of them: v. 18, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward." "And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to His purpose" (v. 28). Verse 32 is the one that has meant much to me when I have seen things that made it seem that God was not in charge. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?" The simplest basic answer to the problem that plagued Asaph and many of us is to look to God's Word in faith and accept it fully. It will not only remove the envy, it will give the answer to many of the questions which man cannot otherwise answer.