But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Reflection: Greed and Envy
By John Tillman
The psalmist, is thrown into doubt and pushed to the limits of his understanding by the inequality he sees in the world.
Inequality is a double-edged sword.
One edge is called envy. It is dulled from overuse and makes up for being unsharpened with a harsh, serrated edge. It saws at its victims rather than slices them.
One edge is called greed. It is sharp and quick, and drips with an anesthetizing coating. It slices to the bone, yet victims hardly feel pain. Most don’t realize they have been wounded or don’t realize its severity.
The psalmist is cut by the edge of envy and the wound grieves him. How can God be just if wicked people are so prosperous? How can God be caring if those he loves suffer? But as he pursues God in worship, he comes to understand the other side of the sword.There are traps here for all of us.
The trap the psalmist escapes is to mistake stored up justice for absence of justice.The wealthy who ignore the poor are not escaping justice and we are not responsible or qualified to carry out justice. We are not to eat the rich, but the bread of life.
The trap for the wealthy, is to think that we are not that wealthy, or that the poor are not that worthy. After all, those richer than we are should do the heavy lifting of caring for the poor, shouldn’t they? And too often we think that poor is a synonym for lazy. We think we are prudent, not greedy—responsible, not cruel.
(And as to whether the poor are undeserving, there could not be a more apt description of us, when Christ gave all he had to cancel our debt of sin.)
Psalms like this have, at times, been used to shush protesters. “Don’t be so angry. Just preach the gospel and rely on God.” This pie-in-the-sky kind of cold comfort ignores one of the frequent commands of scripture—that the powerful must care for the weak and God will hold them to account.
May we humbly seek the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It is in Christ that we will find the compassion to overcome our cynicism and the generosity of spirit to overcome our jealousy and greed. And may we never doubt God’s goodness based on earthly evil.
When men doubt the righteousness of God, their own integrity begins to waver. — Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. — Psalm 103.1-2
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Numbers 29 (Listen – 5:05)
Psalm 73 (Listen – 2:56)
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