Don’t let your heart envy sinners; instead, always fear the Lord. (Proverbs 23:17)
Our hearts are constantly searching to and fro, looking for things to desire and delight in. After watching a show, we want to watch another episode. After shopping, we want to shop some more. We are never satisfied by the things of this world.
Often, these urges drive us to envy, or dissatisfaction caused by what others have or are experiencing. In this simple proverb, we are instructed first to not let our hearts envy sinners. This could be their life circumstances, their position or status, or even their possessions. In Psalm 37, David tells us why. “For they wither quickly like grass and wilt like tender green plants” (Ps. 37:1-2). So then, who should our heart seek?
Solomon goes further by saying that we should replace this envy with a continual fear of the Lord. This means that we constantly stand in awe of God, His glory, power, and perfect attributes. It means we also have a healthy fear of the consequences that come from disobeying His commands and rejecting Him altogether. And this should drive us to share the Gospel with others, as Paul notes, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Cor. 5:11)
What may this look like practically in our life?
- When we see the success of others living according to their desires, we don’t grow discontent because we are not experiencing the same successes. Rather, we fear God and the consequences of rejecting Him as Lord in favor of the idol of earthly success and fickle man. We acknowledge that our worth and identity is in Christ, his life, death, and resurrection.
- When we see the ease and earthly pleasure that many have after seeking after their own desires, we don’t grow envious of these pleasures, for we know that “in [the Lord’s] presence there is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). We fear God, His glory, supremacy, and sovereignty, and seek our joy in Him alone!
As you go throughout your day, ask yourself what your heart strives after. Do you desire what others have or the life that others lead? Or is your hope and treasure in Christ? Do you love your earthly wants, or do you fear the Lord?