“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day; For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.” Proverbs 23:17-18
The wise man is warning us to not let our hearts want what sinners have. Instead we are to be enthusiastic for the fear of the Lord all day long. The reason for this is that there is an afterlife and if we have been enthusiastic for the fear of the Lord we will not be cut off like the sinner who did not fear the Lord.
Envying or wanting what sinners have in this life is a great temptation for God’s people. Just like the children of Israel we too want to be like the “nations around us.” (1 Samuel 8) The great temptation is to envy the way the sinner lives in the here and now. The sinner gets to go wherever he wants; fishing on Sunday, nightclubs on Saturday, and immoral movies on Friday night. The sinner gets to dress anyway she wants to; with immodest dress, and expensive and costly clothing. The sinner doesn’t have to show self-control in their eating and drinking, emotions, or sexual relationships. The sinner gets to take their ease and “eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19) because they live only for today and not for the hereafter.
But God has called for us as His children to be zealous for Him all the day (or all our days). Our lives are to be filled with pleasing God and seeking to follow His commandments. The reason for this is because there is an afterlife. There is coming a time when men, the sinner and the saved alike, will be judged according to their works (1 Peter 1:17). Surely if we follow God and His son Jesus Christ then our hope of being judged faithful will not be cut off (Romans 8:23-24).
Let’s not envy what sinners have in this life because if we do we will have their reward in the next life.
Related proverbs: Proverbs 24:1-2, 19-20; 28:14