Proverbs 24:19-20

Fret not yourself because of evildoers,
and be not envious of the wicked,
for the evil man has no future;
the lamp of the wicked will be put out.

Is there anyone who has not said at some point in their lives, when something bad happens, “Why me?” I’ve been good. I don’t deserve this. I suspect that as many of us who have said “Why me?” have also said at one time or another “Why not me?” I’ve been working hard, how come he got the promotion and not me. Why not me? She got the raise and I didn’t. Why not me? They got into the college or graduate program of their choice? Why not me?

If we are honest with ourselves, it is sometimes true that in the very moment that part of us condemns the evildoer, we also envy him. We may not want to be bad like he is, but we want the good he seems to have. We may not want to believe it, but sometimes the thought creeps in: nice guys (or gals) do finish last, and maybe I’m just a little tired of being nice and last.

Habakkuk put it this way: Addressing God he says, “… why do you idly look at traitors and are silent when the wicked swallow up the man more righteous than he?” Pretty gutsy calling God an idler, don’t you think? But maybe many of us can identify with Habakkuk’s fretting (Proverbs 24:19) and frustration. It does get a little hard to take after a while.

Well what is the antidote for envying the wicked? The writer of this Proverb suggests that we take the long view. The evil man has no future. His lamp will be put out. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul? The grass withers and the flower fades. The wicked may prosper, but only for an instant. Back to Habakkuk—upon reflection, he realizes that even though the wicked may prosper for a time:

  • It is the righteous who shall live by faith (2:4).
  • A day is coming when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (2:14).

At the end he was able to rejoice in the LORD, take joy in his salvation, acknowledging God as his strength who makes his feet like that of the deer treading upon the high places (3:18-20). No need to fret. Your lamp will not go out.

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