Gilland: Warning against envy

Envious brother

Psalm 73 is attributed to one of the many celebrated musicians under King David. His name was Asaph, and he penned a total of 11 psalms that we enjoy reading. Many of you may have seen a portrayal of Asaph, presented in the recent series finale of “The Chosen.”

Asaph’s first verse of Psalm 73 starts off with a declaration of God’s goodness to Israel. But very quickly, in the next verse, Asaph gets quite transparent, and lets us in on a temptation that he faced—one that I think is common to us all.

Asaph begins to describe how he almost stumbled and his feet had nearly slipped. He wasn’t having feet trouble. No, his problem was really due to another body part—his eyes. 

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He had begun to set his focus on others, and not in a good way. As he beheld those he deemed wicked being blessed and prospering, envy set in within his own heart.

The next several verses outline the many ways that Asaph observed this group upon which he was gazing, and these glances furthered Asaph down the path of an unhelpful and unholy comparison.

The Hebrew word for envy is qana, and at root it carries the thought of being jealous. Vines Expository describes this experience: “It is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others.” 

Envy is the stepping stone to a serious sin, one included in the Ten Commandments: covetousness. It’s a condition in which we sinfully desire what others have.

There are numerous examples of envy in the Bible, including Cain, who envied his brother Abel, and actually killed him in a jealous fit of anger. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was intensely envious of Hagar and her ability to conceive when she couldn’t. 

King Saul was nearly driven to madness over his envy of David and especially the chants that were shouted about the shepherd boy: “Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain ten thousands.”

No doubt about it…envy may start off as an innocuous thought. But it is like cancer to the flesh and leads to a much more serious state than we can imagine at the time.

For Asaph, his help came in the nick of time. He found relief from the temptations that were leading him astray, and it happened in a profound encounter with God. 

Verse 17 of Psalm 73 records that he went into the sanctuary of God. And in his presence, Asaph was delivered from this envious state. He was able to remember the faithfulness of God, and how that, though the wicked may indeed prosper, it will eventually be seen as temporal. God and His truth will ultimately win the day.

We live in a culture that has moved a long way away from the teachings of the Bible. It is so easy for any of us to have those strong jealous feelings, those that take us down that dangerous path. But the good news is as true for us, as it was for Asaph…we can discern the truth when we spend even just a little time in the presence of God. 

I encourage you today to spend some time in this chapter, and pray for mercy and freedom from envy, if indeed you find yourself partaking in this unhelpful act. God did indeed care for Asaph. He cares for you too.

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