I recently wrote about how comparison kills friendships within the Church. But what about when our hearts envy those outside of the Body? Should we handle it the same way? Is it okay to envy nonbelievers?
Both psalmists, Asaph and David, walked through some of the feelings we may have when we’re tempted to envy those who don’t serve Christ. And boy did they leave behind some major wisdom in their words for us to apply to our hearts today.
Always at Ease
Asaph starts us off with words that pull on my heart strings.
For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. (Psalm 73:3-5 ESV)
Have you ever felt that way? You stare at your seemingly empty hands and look up to see those who spurn God’s name receiving what you want. I have. There are times when our lives are filled with pain as we watch nonbelievers walk happily in their sin. They seem to be, “always at ease, ” while we are suffering. Bitterness takes root, and we begin to say with Asaph,
All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. (Psalm 73:13-14 ESV)
If God loves his children, why does he sometimes withhold from us what he gives to children of wrath? This question captivates our mind, as our hearts grow resentful toward God and ignorant to the truth. (Psalm 73:21-22). This is why David warns us to, “fret not” and, “be not envious” multiple times in Psalm 37.
Because the truth is, no earthly blessing could compare with what the Children of God inherit. Nothing compares to Christ.
Discerning Their End
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. (Psalm 73:16-17 ESV)
It can be difficult for our futile minds to comprehend the ways of the Lord. Asaph acknowledges the weariness of the endeavor to do so. But then the Lord reminded him of the end of those who don’t love God.
So, what is their, “end”? We see in Psalm 73 that God lifts up the prideful to slippery places so that they fall to ruin. He plans to destroy them. (Psalm 73:18-19). The Young’s Literal Translation says God even despises their image. (vs. 20). David reminds us of the end of the wicked in Psalm 37 as well. There we find that they will fade like the grass, shall be cut off and will perish. (Psalm 37:2, 9, 20).
This knowledge should move us from envy to great compassion for the lost. They may have an abundance here on earth, but all of that will fade, and they will be left with nothing but eternal damnation, away from the presence of God.
Oh friends, why on earth would we envy them?
He is Our Portion
We have been given a treasure more beautiful than anything this world has to offer–one that will never fade or be stolen from us. (Romans 8:35-39). We have salvation in Jesus and all that is his. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places! (Ephesians 1:3-14).
We must dwell on this treasure, learning to desire Jesus more than any earthly thing. Only then will we be equipped to have compassion for the lost rather than envy. Because the truth of our inheritance will be so ingrained in our hearts, we will know that we have something much more precious–that those other things aren’t worth fretting over.
Let us learn to trust in the Lord, befriend faithfulness, delight in him, commit our way to him, and be still before him. (Psalm 37:3-7). When we trust and treasure him, we will become truly mindful of the gift he’s given us in himself. He is our portion and the only one who satisfies our souls. (Psalm 73:26). We need nothing and no one else.
For What Would You Trade Him?
Tell me friend, would you trade him for a child, for a relationship, for many vacations? Would you trade him for money, a bigger house, beauty or fame?
All that you desire could never come close to the preciousness and beauty of Jesus. No husband, baby, or amount of money could compare with the riches found in Christ.
Furthermore, without knowledge of him, all earthly gifts lose their value. Only when we can see those gifts as arrows pointing us to deeper love and worship of him, will we cherish them correctly. And only when we truly recognize Jesus for the treasure he is, will we be able to put off envy and put on gratefulness in any circumstance.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else has, because we have Jesus, and he is all our hearts need. He is MORE than enough.
Thank you for this post. Being envious of unbelievers isn’t a temptation I often find myself battling. However, I DO often find myself reflecting back on my own past, and struggling with how I ought to view previous sinful decisions I’ve made. Without beating around the bush, I am referring to having sex with my husband before we were married. I love to think about all the times we were first getting to know each other, but then I stop myself because I remember the way we went about it was entirely sinful. I was a new Christian, with my only teaching being “sex before marriage is wrong”. My husband had been saved for years, but was secretly lost in the world of pornography at that time. I guess all this to say, the conclusion I’ve come to is to not dwell on our past, and remind myself that it was our own choice to rob ourselves of what could have been so precious. And most importantly to talk with our children regularly about sexual purity, so they can make their own informed decisions.
I’m sorry for my rambling, that is now pretty off topic. Thanks for your continued postings. God has given you such a gift for writing boldly.
Praise God for his redeeming grace in our lives! I agree, it is so important to talk to young people about why we save sex for marriage rather than just saying it’s wrong without any explanation. Thank you for your continued support! It means more than you could ever know! <3