Psalm 73

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 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. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.

Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?” This is what the wicked are like— always carefree, they increase in wealth.

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

I believe it was Robin Leach who hosted a TV show in the US a few years back called “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” One of his tag lines was, “The rich are very different from you and me.” He’s right, they are. Many have lived lives of privilege and comfort, free from much of the stress you and I cope with. They relax more and have more time and capability to pursue diversionary activities. As a result they tend to be happier and healthier than the rest of us. As David wrote above, “They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.” Money and health are a lot alike. You only worry about them to the extent you don’t have them.

It’s easy to envy the rich until you remember that most people find the Lord in the midst of great strife. Someone who’s never faced an insurmountable problem has never had to look beyond himself for answers. And let’s face it, money can be at least a temporary solution for many of life’s problems.

While I have met a number of wealthy Christians, the Lord was right when He said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark. 10:25) I’ve heard teachers try to allegorize this passage away, but I think the Lord was talking about an ordinary needle, pure and simple. Try threading a camel through the eye of a common needle and you’ll see how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom. Here’s why.

When a rich young man asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to obey the commandments. When the man said he had always done that, Jesus commended him and said all he had left to do was sell everything he had, give to the poor, and follow Him. At that the young man went away dejected. (Mark 10:17-22)

I don’t believe you can interpret this passage as a blanket commandment to sell all you have and give to the poor. I believe Jesus was showing the young man that his unwillingness to liquidate his assets was a sign that in his heart he worshiped his wealth more than the Lord. The lifestyle is so seductive that retaining it becomes a person’s number one desire.

As a result, those who focus all their energy on gaining worldly wealth knowingly or unknowingly trade an eternity of enormous blessing that could otherwise be theirs for the 80 years or so that they’ll spend here in relative comfort. And the tragedy is that it didn’t have to happen. They could have had both. As I said above, the Lord doesn’t require His followers to be poor.

When He brought His people into the Promised Land, He said, “There should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.” (Deut 15:4-5)

Earlier He had warned them, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.(Deut 8:10-20)

The problem with many of the rich and famous is that they’ve done exactly what the Lord warned the Israelites not to do. They’ve forgotten Him, taking personal credit for their success instead. In their hearts they’ve worshiped their wealth and fame instead of the One who gave it to them and as a result will be destroyed for their ingratitude. They look around now and call themselves life’s winners, but soon they’ll see that they’re actually its biggest losers. They could have had everything just by acknowledging the Lord who blessed them. Instead they’ll wind up with nothing. Don’t envy them, pity them. Then pray for them.