Be not envious of evil men,
nor desire to be with them,
For their hearts devise violence,
and their lips talk of trouble.
No matter where you work, live, and play it’s a temptation to envy those who cheat to get ahead. Every day, driving to and from center city, I see people getting far ahead of me because they have purposefully driven past the long line of waiting traffic to cut in front, even if it means driving on the shoulder of a highway! After envying these cutters I desire to do the same thing! My mind and heart wander to places of violence wondering why all of these drivers could be so stupid to stay in this lane and drive slowly. Then I begin to curse them, picking apart each incorrect move they make and criticizing their liberal use of the brakes. Sometimes I switch on my turn signal - after all I’m not an animal - and pull into the wrong lane to get ahead.
Do you see the descent into sin these verses warn against? In the first line, we become envious of what evil people have and how they achieve things so easily without a care for morality or the common good (Psalm 73). Then we begin to desire their lifestyles and choices, in the second line, because it seems to work out so nicely for all of them. The second verse, likewise, starts with evil thoughts of the heart and descends to evil words on the lips. It begins with thoughts and descends to actions.
The reality is that these verses illustrate our own hearts (Genesis 6:5, Psalm 14, Romans 3:23-25) - not just far off evil people. Certainly there are evil people out in the world, but among them are all Christians, including me. Our hearts so quickly turn to violence, hatred, and trouble. The hope, then, is that we are like the man in Psalm 1, “delighting in the law of the LORD and… meditating [on it] day and night.” It’s the “law of the LORD” that, through the Holy Spirit, turns our hearts toward God and away from evil. So whether it’s driving in the city, sharing a cubicle, working on a group project, or simply living next to other people, “delight in the law of the LORD,” stand firm in the grace God has provided through salvation, and flee from evil.