Lately my Facebook algorithm has been flashing aerial shots of million-dollar mansions and estates of the rich and famous. They spread out over many acres, with the requisite swimming pool, tennis courts, multiple wings off the main house. The lawn and gardens are immaculate. Everything within me says, “Now that’s the kind of place I would like to have.” In comparison, my 2013 square foot home is like a cardboard box under a bridge.
Ever been there? Wishing you had what they had? All of us have found ourselves envious of others at some point in our lives. Here we are slaving away, working to make ends meet when each day the ends get shorter and shorter. Many of us work from sunup to sundown and in the end have little to show for it. Deep down inside we probably know we shouldn’t be envious of others, but every time you turn on the television or read the news, you are confronted with the lavish lifestyles and exorbitant salaries of movie starts, athletes, and pop musicians. It seems that we have good reason to be envious.
Asaph was one of the Levitical musicians appointed by King David to lead worship in the tabernacle. In Psalm 73 Asaph probably expressed what a lot of us feel from time to time.
Psalm 73:1-8 (NLT) – “Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. 2 But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. 3 For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. 4 They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. 5 They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else. 6 They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. 7 These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! 8 They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. 9 They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth.”
I don’t know about you, but sometimes those sentiments resonate with me. “These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for!” I’m with Asaph here – as I observe all of this, it’s like I am on an icy sidewalk – I’m taking baby steps to keep from falling flat. And I wonder – doesn’t God see all of this? Surely, He knows how I struggle. Surely, He will somehow reward me for my faithfulness to Him. And yet I often wonder. I don’t dare express my doubts to others, but I still wonder! Asaph expressed these same feelings:
Psalm 73:9-16 (NLT) – “And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words. 11 “What does God know?” they ask. “Does the Most High even know what’s happening?” 12 Look at these wicked people— enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? 14 I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain. 15 If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people. 16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is!”
Let’s be honest – all of us have these kinds of doubts. It’s a part of life in our society. So how do we deal with these thoughts? Asaph found the answer in a moment of worship. Remember, worship is taking your eyes off yourself and focusing them on God. It is seeking to gain a new perspective on our world. Here’s Asaph’s experience of worship in the tabernacle:
Psalm 73:17-28 (NLT) – “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. 18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction. 19 In an instant they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors. 20 When you arise, O Lord, you will laugh at their silly ideas as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.”
We envy the lifestyle of the rich and famous; God, on His part, laughs at them because they have missed the true riches of life. They are the ones on the icy sidewalk. Wait around long enough and you will see them slip and fall. The antidote to envy is to change your perspective from temporal – what’s going on for the short time we are here on this earth – to the eternal – what awaits God’s children for all of eternity.
Psalm 73:21-28 (NLT) – “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. 22 I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. 23 Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. 26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. 27 Those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. 28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.”
This Psalm closes with a majestic statement of faith in God. “I still belong to you. You will lead me to a glorious destiny! My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever!” Let that be your perspective for the coming week! “As for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.”