Do you ever wonder why it seems like the wicked prosper more than the godly? Why it is that good things seem to happen more often to bad people? If so, you are not alone. Even in the Bible, you find people asking those questions and wondering if godliness really pays off in the end. If you read the 73rd psalm you will find one person’s struggle with this question.
You Might Envy the Prosperity of the Wicked
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. Psalm 73:1-3
This is a psalm that can speak to many believers. We seek to serve God and be faithful to him. We invest time and resources in that service. And we try to make a positive difference in the world around us for the kingdom’s sake.
Then we look at our neighbors, co-workers, the celebrities on TV, sports or media stars; those who are making no attempt to please God. And yet they seem more blessed than us. Nicer cars. Bigger houses. Better vacations. And on and on. It is easy to envy their prosperity, and wonder if serving God really pays off.
That is where Asaph, the author of this psalm, is when the psalm begins. So much so that he had nearly fallen. Turning his back on God and following the example of the wicked. The wicked who seemed to have no worries. Free of the cares that seemed to plague him. Was it all in vain? Was there any value in maintaining a pure heart and personal innocence?
But Consider Their Destiny
When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Psalm 73:16-17 NIV
On the surface this didn’t seem right. It troubled Asaph. Why did the wicked prosper so?
But then he stopped to consider their destiny. And he realized that they were on the pathway to ruin. Their prosperity would not endure, but would be swept away. And all memory of their former prosperity would be like a dream. Something that is only remembered vaguely and elusively.
And then he realized the foolishness of his jealousy. Of envying those who endure but for a moment and then are gone. In the end what have they gained?
And Consider What We Have in God
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26 NIV
Asaph realized that while good things might happen to bad people now, it will not continue. And while he might not enjoy some of the prosperity that this world cherishes today, he had something much greater. He had God’s presence to guide him. And not just for this life. In the end, when the wicked would be punished, he would be taken into glory. Into the very presence of God.
And once he realized that, he returned to God. There was nothing this earth had to offer that could top his relationship with God, both present and future. The wicked may prosper for a short time. But God was his portion forever.
For the Believer Today
As it was in the days of Asaph, so it is today. Not all of the wicked prosper. And not all believers suffer. But it is awfully easy to think that the wicked are in general better off in this world. We might well be tempted to envy the prosperity and lifestyle of the Hilton’s, the Kardashian’s, and many others in the rich and famous sect.
But don’t envy them. What they have is only passing. In the end their prosperity will be left behind. It will be only like a barely remembered dream. They deserve your pity rather than your envy.
Put your hope in God. He will always be with you. Now and through eternity. While your strength may fail you, His will not. When you don’t know the way, which way to turn, He does. Your road may not be smooth, but it will end in His rest.
And that should be sufficient. When tempted to envy what others have, consider their fate. Then consider the all-sufficient goodness of knowing God. Let your desire be for him alone.
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I am a follower of Jesus, retired, married for 35 years, with 2 children and 2 grandchildren. I enjoy gathering with the church, theology, reading, gardening and backpacking.