This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.
Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. ~Proverbs 23:17
Sometimes people look at Christians and see us as the people of no. We become more known for things we’re against than things that we’re for. This perception sometimes is our own doing. We like to make lists, and often our ethical lists are don’t, don’t, don’t.
This proverb might seem to add to that perception. “Let not your heart envy sinners.” We have a negative here, a don’t. Yet on the other side of this is a do. In fact, when read with 23:18, we find a greater focus on the positive than the negative:
Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
Why might we envy sinners? We do it because sometimes we look around and it seems that the wicked do prosper. We do it because we look at the sin and we see the fun and the pleasure.
So, how do we grow to where we don’t envy sinners? One way would to see the destruction that sin causes. The wages of sin is death. And another way is to focus on the positive side of God’s commands.
“Continue in the fear of the Lord,” this proverb says. “Fear” in this sense is not terror but awe and respect. “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” The opposite of death is life. In God, though Christ, we have the hope of eternal life against eternal death.
And what does eternal life entail? The fullness of joy in the presence of God and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). Here is fuel for desiring to live following Jesus and forsaking the path of our own sin and that of other sinners: superior joy and pleasure.
This is how we look beyond the negatives of the “do nots” and embrace in Jesus the “do this.” We keep our eyes focused on the end goal. Sin has its pleasures, but God has greater pleasures in store. We do not envy sinners because in following Jesus there is far greater joy than this present world will ever know.