How often have you looked slant-eyed at your neighbor and secretly wished that you were in his shoes?
The catalog of “advantages” is lengthy.
They can get the best jobs—through their unions and all that. It’s easier for them to climb the ladder of success; after all, they feel a kinship for one another and this enables them to enjoy a convivial life of eating and drinking in jovial fellowship. Besides this, the money they do make is their own; they simply think of ways in which they can spend it on themselves, their families, their friends. Just imagine if we didn’t have to spend our money on Christian education, church supported ministries, the poor, and missions. I’m sure that many 6f your folks could buy a brand new car each year and pay cash for it, if they didn’t have to pay tuition in a Christian school. That sounds pretty good to our fleshly desires. The world about us is doing this right along. No wonder they have money for all kinds of things and entertainment. It’s easy for us to envy them.
There is, of course, much more. Having fun seems to be the one big thing today. Jobs are necessary to some extent. There are responsibilities we must accept. Life is bearable only if one is able to get away from it all from time to time. One can’t be serious all the time. There must be times for living it up a bit. So the entertainment. business beckons for followers. The movie business creates as much appeal as it possibly can, all geared to having fun and forgetting the seriousness of life. Show tunes are broadcast over the radio so that the poor worker can have something to make his day bearable. The carpenter bangs his hammer to the beat, the mechanic tightens bolts to the beat, the merchant sells his product to the beat; and so the beat goes on. The atmosphere is relaxed and pleasant, people like the noise. For those who can pay more attention, television offers plenty of opportunity to escape from the humdrum of life. You can be swept into the world of the imaginary, or you can follow the raw edge of murder, the swinging life of the fun-lovers, the intriguing life of the detective, or the titillating embrace of the lustful. All you have to do is turn it on in the privacy of your own home; . . . so convenient. True, there is more available if you want. to go out and spend a night on the town. You can see much more live and in the flesh. There are racier places, bawdier shows, that go much farther than public broadcasting allows (although even this is changing). The night clubs, the cheap motels, the massage parlors are all over the place.
And what fun they all seem to have!
Add one more thing, people are having more time for this fun. Not only do they have more money, they also have more time. In some areas the work week is shortened—not due to lack of work, but rather to give more time to the worker to have fun. And, of course, he must make at least as much money as, if not more than, when he worked 40-45 hours a week. Think of the free time! Even the housewife doesn’t have to be tied down as she used to be. Microwave ovens, TV dinners, disposable diapers have taken care of that. Doesn’t it look good to have a two day and sometimes three day weekend for camping, fun, and relaxation. Every week! Wow, there is no end to possibilities! A person can bear a few days of work if he can look forward to a few days of sheer fun. They do not have to bother with attending church, at least not at their sacrifice. If it is convenient they might perhaps make an occasional appearance.
The keynote is, obviously, fun!
It is very easy for us to envy them.
Let’s be honest about this, for this is the root of our daily struggle. We come into contact with this world of the wicked, to some extent, every day. From our position it seems as if they have it pretty good, and, by contrast, we have to live a rather stuffy life. We might even feel that we live in drabsville.
God also recognizes that we struggle with this envy. Asaph, the man of God, had similar problems. He speaks of this in Psalm 73, “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked,” Psalm 73:1-3. He explains that they prosper, they have strength, they don’t have trouble like others, they are proud, violent, rich, corrupt, boastful, and have more than heart could wish. God’s people seem to have the opposite. They struggle, are plagued and chastened every morning. Then he continues, “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocency,” verse 13. Does God send more blessing on the wicked than He does on His children? Envy brings one to this basic confrontation: do the wicked have it better than the righteous? If so, we cleanse our hands in vain, it is no advantage to be a Christian. Envy ultimately would bring us out of the church into the world.
Hence, God comes to us in His Word. The Psalmist learned that it was foolish to envy the wicked because their prosperity placed them on slippery ground that caused them to slide headlong into hell,Ps. 73:18. Hardly an enviable position. But, we must be warned, “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity,” Ps. 37:1. There are plenty of examples of God’s people acting out of envy and having to suffer the sad consequence. How else can we understand Israel’s behavior in the wilderness except we understand Israel’s envy of the wicked. Numbers 11:5, 6describes it: “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic; but now our soul is dried away, there is nothing at all beside this manna; before our eyes.” Egypt without God appeared better than manna with God; hence some proposed to return to Egypt. Since they were not allowed to return, the second best thing would be to erect the gods of Egypt and have the pleasures connected with it. The calf appeared, and God had to strike them severely.
Time and again this took place in Israel. They envied the wicked in their feasts and idol worship. They clamored for a king as the other nations. They wanted to have more fun than the dull life of the covenant. Sad, but true, the kings and priests, as well as prophets, often led the people into this terrible path.
Envy always brings compromise, sin, and ultimately destruction.
How can we best deal with this terrible sin?
Let’s do two things. First, in this article, we should begin to examine who the wicked are. Are they enviable? Or should we say with Asaph, how foolish of me to envy them? Secondly, in future articles, we should consider who we are in contrast. Who are God’s people, covenant youth? What makes us different and why should we envy rather in a sanctified manner, that is, “covet earnestly the best gifts”; I Cor. 12:31.
WHO ARE THE WICKED
In answering this question, we should consider three things about them. First, they are corrupt and defiled in their sins. Secondly, they are transgressors; in their corruption they violate God’s holy law. Thirdly, they reveal themselves as Godless, that is, they oppose God and God opposes them in His judgment.
Let’s begin by considering the wicked as evil, that is, morally vile and full of the stench of death.
Consider a passage such as Isaiah 57:20, 21, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” Paul, writing in the Spirit to the church at Rome, expresses the content of that mire and dirt. He writes, “God gave them up unto vile affections; for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature; and likewise the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet . . . Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant- breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them,” Romans 1:24-32.
God’s Word calls the products of the unbelieving world, filth, mire and dirt.
The Bible is as timely as when it was written. If you covenant young people cannot see this today, you never will see it. What is the spiritual character of the arts, science, and culture of the unbelieving world? It is even as Paul describes it in Romans, and as the Prophet Isaiah described it in his day; it is the filth that comes forth from a reprobate mind. True, there are relative degrees of filth. Even the world recognizes this. But let’s not call the less evil, good! The degree is that of corruption, not a degree of goodness.
The evidence of this is round about us on every hand. Examine the ten pop tunes, the best sellers in L.P.s, the most requested songs on the radio programs. What is their subject matter? They glamorize sex so openly and explicitly that even their conscience must be seared. The perversion that Paul speaks about is openly glamorized in our society today. Marriage is laughed at. How can there be marriage when group sex is the ultimate? Most of it is so vile that the sensitivities of God’s people are hurt even considering it. It’s dirt, alright. Yes, they can include “Amazing Grace” along with the others, but I’ll tell you it’s not the same grace of God that the Christian reverences. In fact it is not even the same God. That’s the deception. Even their “religion” is a vulgarization of the divine and a secularization of the spiritual. Godspell and Superstar are proof enough.
How cunning our enemy works! He works on two levels, in the area of the so-called secular and the so-called religious. But, he works the same, that is, to cut away the truth of God’s Word and give license to the ungodly to wallow in their filth, casting up mire and dirt. Publishers are producing books and magazines prolifically. The movie and television industry are producing yardage instead of footage. Some of the largest sales in our country deal in liquor, tobacco, pornography, gambling and even illicit drugs. Stand on the street corner; watch the world pass by. Look at the magazine rack, read the movie reviews, cast an eye upon the best sellers in the literary field. If there ever was a time that a person doesn’t have to go to the movies, watch the TV programs, read the books and magazines, to see how bad things really are, it is today. The promotional advertising of these things tells you enough.
Woe be to the church that calls the evil good and becomes as a blind man leading the blind so that both fall into the pit together. The sure sign of apostasy in the church is for the leaders of the church to call this mire and dirt something clean and worthwhile. How the devil laughs at such deception! It is the worst kind.
Envy the wicked?
Their works smell like dead carcasses and look like an oil slick that the storm tossed sea has cast upon the shore.
It is mire and dirt.
(To be continued)