“Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:1-3).
How well do you handle being around people who are boastful about their accomplishments? Does it bother you? Do you find yourself wishing that they would be taken down a peg or two? I think many of us can relate to feeling this way when listening to the arrogance of boastful people and it leads us to having to battle with our own spiritual struggles as we are tempted to wish evil upon them.
In Psalm 73 the writer describes his struggle with being around boastful people. He describes their arrogance as they are full of pride, violence, and having “more than heart could wish” (Psalm 73:6-9). He describes these boastful people as feeling they will not be held accountable to God for their actions: “And they say, ‘How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?’ Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches” (Psalm 73:11-12).
As the psalmist observes their pride, he is engaged in his own spiritual struggle. As he observed the boastful, doubt entered into his heart, and he began to question his service to God: “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning” (Psalm 73:13-14). To his credit, the author was able to recognize that the real problem he was facing was not the fact that the boastful prospered, but rather it was the envy the was swelling up in his own heart: “For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:3). He tormented himself as he made assumptions that God would never bring the arrogant to justice: “For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men” (Psalm 73:4-5). The psalmist acknowledges that his own thinking was warped: “Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You” (Psalm 73:21-22).
As he pours his heart out unto God, the writer realizes God will hold the arrogant accountable: “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me-- Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image” (Psalm 73:16-20). The psalmist realizes rather than wasting his time and effort envying the boastful, he needs to focus his heart on seeking God and trusting in Him: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26). The writer had allowed the envy he felt in his heart over the boastful to cause a breech in his own relationship with God. As he ends the psalm, he realizes his need to return to God: “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (Psalm 73:28).
Can you relate to the struggle the psalmist had over being “envious of the boastful”? I can and I realize the real spiritual battle I am facing is not the prosperity of the wicked, but the envy I am struggling with in my own heart. Today, I will commit myself to God, draw near to Him, and fight against Satan by not allowing him to get a foothold in my life by tempting me to envy the boastful!
“A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).