I need to do more research on this, but hasn’t the expression of envy changed over the last hundred years? Just think about it – 150 years ago advertising, as we know it, didn’t exist, making envy a bit different. A shop keeper might put up a sign in his window saying that he had some new product to sell. But there wasn’t the media, repeating over and over again, “You need this new product.” Everyone was getting along fine without it, and they didn’t know any better. Why do so many people want the newest cell phone or tablet? Not because we need it, but because we are repeatedly TOLD that we need it. And then we see others using that latest technology, making our mouths water – creating envy.
Of course, envy has been around from the beginning of time. Lucifer was envious of Jehovah. He was foolishly JEALOUS of the Lord. And his first temptation of man was empowered with envy – “God has it; don’t you want it? Aren’t you just a little jealous?” But since then – until recently – hasn’t most envy involved important things – life sustaining things? The poor man envied the rich man’s big, full barn, or his plow-pulling ox. In Abraham’s day there may not have been much envy over a string of pearls or a fancier tent. Was Achan’s desire for the Babylonian clothes and wedge of gold common – or was it an aberration?
As I say, I need to do more research on this. Whether or not our problem with greed, jealously and envy is more refined or out of control, envy has been here from the beginning. And the Holy Spirit knows that we need to be rebuked and warned from time to time. And this is the purpose of these two, easily diagramed, sentences.
Our HEARTS are the heart of the matter.
Sunday I said that when we hear the word “name” we can substitute the person attached to that name. “In the NAME of Jesus Christ, rise and walk,” means, “In the AUTHORITY of Christ, arise.” In that case the name is the same as the person. And coming from a different direction, we can say that a man’s heart is essentially that man.
Earlier in this chapter Solomon said, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” In fact, Solomon referred to the heart several times in this chapter, and in each case he reached the heart of the matter. Proverbs 23:12 – “Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.” Applying one’s head, memorizing instruction, will not be as helpful as applying ones heart to it. Proverbs 23:15 – “My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.” Proverbs 23:17 – “Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.” Proverbs 23:19 – “Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.” If your heart is pointed in the right direction, your feet will follow, and so will your eyes and ears. Proverbs 23:26 – “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” And in chapter 4 he said, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for OUT OF IT are the issues of life.” And then there are the words of the Lord Jesus – “Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” And we might add, it is the heart which envies and lusts for things which it, and the body, do not have. “Let not thine heart envy sinner: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.” Hands and feet don’t envy – and even though it might seem so, taste buds don’t envy either. Christians need, by the grace and power of God, to control their hearts – for the glory of the Lord.
Let not thine heart ENVY.
We know what it is to envy, don’t we? Strong says that this Hebrew word is translated “envy” 9 times, and “jealous” or “jealousy” 15 times. For some people, making that substitution gives them more clarity – “Don’t be jealous of the sinner.” Here is Webster’s 1828 definition of “envy.” “To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another.” Don’t permit yourself to get down because that other man got the job you were wanting. Let not discontent fill thine heart because you can only afford a flip phone.
I should probably save Psalm 37 for later use in this message, but I won’t. “FRET not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou ENVIOUS against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”
Solomon says, “Let not thine heart envy SINNERS.”
“For surely there is an end, and thine expectation shall not be cut off.”
But for the unrepentant sinner, all their expectations SHALL be cut off, and all the gadgets they have amassed throughout their lives will be lost. As Christ told us, “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully.” Then he said to his soul – his heart – “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” If envy made any sense at all, it would make NO sense to envy the man whose body and soul will suffer under the wrath of God for eternity.
But does it make any more sense to envy the righteous? I know that this isn’t Solomon’s subject, because he wants to compare the end of the saint and the end of the wicked. But again, is envy or jealousy of some saint of God a good thing? I don’t know what color arsenic is, but let’s say that it is clear. If someone comes along and makes it cherry red, is that arsenic any less dangerous to drink? Greed, jealousy and envy are dangerous in themselves, no matter where the heart might aim them.
“Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the FEAR of the LORD all the day long.”
It is not quite the opposite, but we have “fear of the Lord” placed in contrast to envy of the sinner. As almost always, the “fear of the Lord” refers to respect and awe of the Lord. Then it moves on to love and worship – the fear of the Lord is a Christian principle. When our heart’s relationship to the Saviour is as it should be there should be no room for envy.
This takes us back to Psalm 37 again – “Fret not thyself because of evildoers… Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Oops… “the desires of thine heart” – doesn’t that mean God will satisfy my wants, envies and jealousies? No. Because when we delight ourselves with the Lord, we’ll find our hearts conform to Him. He will give us the desires of our hearts, but those desires will not the same as they once were – worldly. We will find that our desires match perfectly with the Lord’s “desires.”
What about that phrase “all the day long”?
“Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.” Does it simply mean what it says? Well if it means what it says, isn’t it unnecessary or even redundant for Solomon to mention it? Not at all.
It is relatively easy to get up in the morning with plans to love and serve God throughout the day. We are refreshed and strong – ready to face anything; we’ve not battled any temptations yet. But then the day goes haywire; by noon we are exhausted, and by evening we are battered and bruised. It is more difficult to remember the Lord in awe and love when we have been beaten down. After a hard day it is far more easy to envy the sinner. It looks to you from down on the floor that the sinner’s day has been easy – and full. But remember…..
Surely there is an END, and thine EXPECTATION shall not be cut off.
The word “surely” means essentially – “it is guaranteed.” What is guaranteed? The end of all this. The end of our trials in this world, with its temptations and problems. There will be an end to our poverty, our ignorance, our weakness. There will be an end – guaranteed. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
I am getting ahead of myself, but do you see the word “expectation” in verse 18? That same word is found in the next chapter. Proverbs 24:13-14 – “My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb which is sweet to thy taste. So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy EXPECTATION shall not be cut off.” We aren’t surprised that the word “expectation” is more often translated “hope.” Christian, your hope in Christ with all His promises and rewards, is guaranteed – it will not be cut off.
A secondary reason I wanted you to look at Proverbs 24:14 is to point to the word “reward.” That is the same word as “end” here in our text. So Proverbs 23:18 could be understood to mean, “For surely there is a reward; and your hope shall not be cut off.” There are earthly and eternal blessings for curbing our appetites and envyings.
The point is – there is no reason whatsoever to envy the sinner. We have a hope in Christ which is guaranteed. When the final trumpet blows and time will be swallowed up in eternity, we will have far more than any sinner ever had while on earth. We will be so filled with Christ and His blessings that what we lack today will never return to our minds. The Lord has guaranteed it. He said in Jeremiah 29:11 – “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an EXPECTED end.”