Scripture Focus: Psalm 73.1-3; 16-17
1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
Reflection: Losing Cynicism in the Sanctuary
By John Tillman
Psalm 73 begins with its conclusion: Surely God is good to the pure in heart. But the psalmist goes through disillusionment and cynicism before getting there.
The psalmist is distressed by disparity, to the point of despair. The wicked grow rich, healthy, wealthy, and (at least in their own eyes) wise. He begins to think God uncaring and unjust, sinking in a spiral of cynicism. He describes this as a trap he almost “slips” and falls into.
But there is more than one trap. The psalmist says the arrogant rich are also “on slippery ground.” (Psalm 73.18-20) Wealth that works like a charm in this life is, for many, a curse and a trap. (Proverbs 17.8)
We can be snared by both traps. Wealthy as we are, we may think that other wealthier ones are guilty of greed as we hoard our own resources. Poor as we are, we can be in denial of the blessings that God has given us and guilty of the same selfishness as the wealthy. All of us can be guilty of taking rest, ease, and luxury at the expense of others. How can we escape these traps of hubris, greed, jealousy, and despair?
The psalmist loses cynicism in the sanctuary of the Lord. It is there he sees that all humanity’s unpaid debts to each other are ringing up interest in the Lord’s accounts and we will not avoid his justice.
We mistake wealth in this world that will pass away as being more desirable than wealth in God’s kingdom that will not pass away. Tricks of perspective can make large things seem small and small things seem large.
For the rich and the poor, worship of God is the doorway through which we see with a different perspective. This is why James speaks so harshly about treating the rich and poor equitably in God’s house. (James 2.1-13) This is why Jesus was zealous for God’s house, expelling the money changers. (John 2.13-17; Mark 11.15-17; Matthew 21.12-14)
God intends our worship to reflect heaven, not earth.
It will be in worship that we gain a better perspective to help us see things rightly.
May the Holy Spirit confront us about equity and justice.
May we question our justice, not God’s. Are we being prudent or greedy? Are we being responsible or cruel?
May moments of worship overwhelm our cynicism and reveal a perspective of eternity.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31.23
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle
Ezekiel 25 (Listen – 2:50)
Psalm 73 (Listen – 2:56)
Read more about Greed and Envy
The trap the psalmist escapes is to mistake stored up justice for absence of justice.
Read more about In Denial about Greed and Power
We still don’t fully admit or understand the destructive nature of the sins of greed and power.