Wise Saying #29:
“Do not be angered by evildoers, and do not be envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” [i] (24:19-20)
Does it ever make you fuming mad that the lives of sinners seem so easy-going and fun as compared to your morally austere existence? Have you ever wished your life could be as carefree as theirs? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then welcome to the Christian race. The Wiseman warns us against the common, and especially alluring, temptation of envying sinners. So powerful is this enticement, he warns against it three other times (cf. 3:31; 23:17-18; 24:1; see also Sayings #14 and #19). Twice David and Aspah muse about the topic (Psalms 37, 73). And bringing it closer to home, in the old standard Farther Along, we lyrically wonder ourselves why the faithful have it so hard while the wicked live in such prosperous ease[ii]. Burning with envy over the evildoer’s success is foolishness, since God has ordained that their prosperity and ease is but temporary. Sinners have no future seeing as, “They will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb” (Psalm 37:1). So today, allow God to deal with the wicked and let’s, “Delight [ourselves] in the Lord and He will give [us] the desires of [our] hearts” (37:4).
This week’s theme: The Thirty Sayings of the Wiseman
[i] Nearly all English translations begin verse 19 with the word “fret.” So, for example, the ESV says, “Fret not…” When I think about the word “fret” I think anxiety or worry. However, according to Brown-Driver-Briggs the Hebrew here means to “to be hot, furious, burn, become angry, be kindled.” Therefore, the Wiseman is not saying don’t worry about the wicked but don’t become angry over the wicked and their prosperous, and/or carefree lifestyle. (The life of the wicked must seem good or fun in order to be an object of envy.) The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates this verse, “Don’t be agitated…” I have taken the liberty to translate my own version of this verse in an attempt to capture what I believe the Wiseman intended to say.
[ii] The first verse says, “Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder, Why it should be thus all the day long, While there are others living about us, Never molested tho’ in the wrong.” The chorus states that while our lot in life may seem unfair now, “Farther along we’ll know all about it, Farther along we’ll understand why.” So then we are admonished to, “Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine, We’ll understand it all by and by.” Another verse adds, “Toils of the road will then seem as nothing, As we sweep thro’ the beautiful gate.” This hymn is an old standard in many churches in the South.