It is an age-old problem that becomes a stumbling block to so many people. A person observes those who appear to be healthy and successful as they live in willful sin in rebellion against God. He also observes the struggles and apparent lack of success of those striving to live righteous lives. The false conclusion is quickly drawn that the “end really does justify the means” and that God is failing to bless the righteous. The Bible warns against making rash, quick judgments without all the facts (Matt. 7:1) and based only on outward appearances. A classic example is God choosing a king for Israel from among Jesse’s sons and Samuel thinking that surely Eliab will be the one who is chosen (1 Sam. 16:6). “But Jehovah said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him: for Jehovah seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on the heart” (16:7).
Making judgments based upon outward appearances caused the Psalmist to say, “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; My steps had well nigh slipped” (Psa. 73:2). One must fight the temptation to be envious of the arrogant upon seeing the “prosperity of the wicked” (73:3). Let us learn from the 73rd Psalm that our faith and trust is to be rooted and grounded in Jehovah and not in the glamour and glitter of this present world.
The Problem To Overcome:
(1) “The prosperity of the wicked” (v. 3) – their boastfulness that was apparently justified by their security and success.
(2) The wicked had “no pangs in their death” (v. 4) – that is, they died easy without fear or pain with no apparent mental or physical struggles.
(3) The wicked were not “in trouble” and “plagued like other men” (v. 5) – in normal life poverty and disease affect the poor while the wealthy appear to be living in luxury.
(4) They are characterized by “pride” and “violence” (v. 6).
(5) They possess more than a heart could wish for (v. 7).
(6) They scoff and set their mouths against the heavens (v. 8).
(7) They are willfully ignorant of God and blasphemous and haughty in attitude (v. 11).
The Psalmist then notes the wicked being at ease and increasing in riches and exclaims, “Surely in vain have I cleansed my heart, and washed my hands in innocency; For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning” (73:13-14). People today wrestle with the same thoughts. Does it matter what a man does? Will righteousness be victorious over unrighteousness? Does it pay great dividends to be wicked and God-defiant?
The Solution To The Problem:
The realization that the wicked do indeed prosper and enjoy this life is often quite painful to the one striving to live a righteous life. But when one considers and accepts God’s eternal truths, earthly things are then seen in their true perspective. Temporal prosperity takes on an entirely new character when seen in the light of eternity.
(1) The Psalmist saw that the feet of the wicked were set “in slippery places” and that they were cast “down to destruction” (v. 18).
(2) A day is coming when the wicked will become “a desolation in a moment” and they will be “utterly consumed with terrors”(v. 19).
(3) In the Day of Judgment when all accounts are made right, God will despise the image of the wicked (v. 20).
Understanding and accepting God’s revelation (the Scriptures) disposes quickly one’s envy of the wicked. Who in his proper mind would covet the position of one who is rich and famous in this world but wretched and lost throughout eternity? Physical prosperity will never be able to overcome spiritual bankruptcy!
The Destiny Of The Righteous:
(1) He has fellowship with Jehovah God (v. 23).
(2) He is guided by divine counsel (Word of God) that will lead to eternal glory (v. 24).
(3) He realizes that nothing upon earth can compare with God and His eternal blessings (v. 25).
(4) He knows that the flesh and heart will fail, but that God is his source of strength and refuge (v. 26).
(5) He understands it is always good for man to draw near to God, and he places his complete trust in God (v. 28).
Let us realize that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and neither are His ways our ways (Isa. 55:8-9). May we see as God sees, and cherish the blessings that come from God more than the prosperity that comes through the world!
– Marvin L. Weir, Rowlett,TX; via the Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin of the Belvedere church of Christ, Belvedere, SC. Ken Chumbley serves the congregation as minister. He may be contacted at their website: www.belvederechurchofchrist.org or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org