DON’T ENVY THE WICKED!
Lord, keep us from the sin of envy.
Read PROVERBS 24:1–22
24 Do not envy the wicked,
do not desire their company;
2 for their hearts plot violence,
and their lips talk about making trouble.
3 By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
4 through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.
5 The wise prevail through great power,
and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
6 Surely you need guidance to wage war,
and victory is won through many advisers.
7 Wisdom is too high for fools;
in the assembly at the gate they must not open their mouths.
8 Whoever plots evil
will be known as a schemer.
9 The schemes of folly are sin,
and people detest a mocker.
10 If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?
13 Eat honey, my son, for it is good;
honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.
14 Know also that wisdom is like honey for you:
If you find it, there is a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.
15 Do not lurk like a thief near the house of the righteous,
do not plunder their dwelling place;
16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.
17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the Lord will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.
19 Do not fret because of evildoers
or be envious of the wicked,
20 for the evildoer has no future hope,
and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.
21 Fear the Lord and the king, my son,
and do not join with rebellious officials,
22 for those two will send sudden destruction on them,
and who knows what calamities they can bring?
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Speak from thy word in this quiet hour. / Teach me to live by thy Spirit’s power. / Open my heart so that I may see / more of thyself… in me.” (Eugene L. Clark, “Prayer before Preaching,” 1968)
This section warns twice against envying the wicked (1,19 – cf., Prov 23:17). There are two reasons for this. First, if we envy their lives, we will end up adopting their ways – plotting violence and speaking evil (2). Second, the evildoers have no future, since they will perish in the end (20). The sages in turn admonish the young listener to rescue people who are facing death – most likely the victims of injustice (11). Any false excuse for inactivity is unforgivable when we are called upon to help those in desperate need, for God examines our heart (12). Instead of envying the wicked, the righteous should take action to stand against violence.
The instruction proceeds to counsel against an attitude of self-righteousness. It admonishes the righteous not to rejoice over the punishment of the wicked (17). Such attitudes will displease the Lord, and he may turn his wrath away from the wicked and towards those with the wrong attitude themselves (18). The young are reminded to trust in God (not unlike the king), who is, above all, responsible for taking vengeance (22).
Do you find yourself envious of the wicked when you see them enjoying easy gains, good health, longevity, prosperity, and success? Let’s convert such negative attitudes into positive action – looking out for the victims of the wicked. Micah reminds us to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Have we ever rejoiced over the punishment of the evildoers without even feeling guilty about it? God told Ezekiel that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked; instead, he wants them to turn from their wicked ways and live (Ezekiel 18:23). Let God’s heart be our heart!
“Lord, our minds seek to know You. Our hearts long to find You. Our souls desire to serve You. Send us out, aware of Your presence, that our hearts may be renewed.” (Adam, 1994, p. 91)
Lord, we understand the fate of the wicked, and we want no part of it. Keep our minds fixed on serving You.