Have you noticed that the market place is well populated with people who bend and break the rules? Whatever the standard, their behaviour can only be described as unethical: a little dishonesty here, a white lie, pretence of expertise or stealing of credit. Deals are oiled with bribes, friends favoured over talent and reputations ruined by gossip. Some flagrantly flaunt the rules, other have developed a subtle habit of twisting them out of shape.
This results in less than fair deals, a distortion of values, poorer relationships and an increasing lack of trust. It creates a culture where honour is a rarity and the prevailing concept is that of each person out for themselves.
There is a very irritating aspect of this culture in that inevitably there are a number of individuals who seem to have climbed the ladder of success and ended up with status, position or rewards even though they do wrong. This creates a double annoyance because not only have they acted poorly – which is annoying – but they seem to have prospered, which is also annoying.
Those who observe this progress often find themselves reacting in one (or both) of two ways. Some get very angry and will use phrases like “it makes my blood boil” or “it gets me hot under the collar”. Others see the success and react with a jealousy or envy which covets the rewards that such people have obtained. To put it graphically, some see red and others turn green.
David wrote a psalm which literally provides an A-Z of how to navigate in a world like this. Each of the stanzas in the psalm starts with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. His opening advice is to warn against turning red or green. ‘Do not fret’ (literally get hot with anger or worry) ‘because of evil people or be envious of those who do wrong’. His reasoning is very simple: it won’t last. Prosperity built like that will wither and will die like grass in the sun or like annual plants. They don’t need your heat to stop them growing. Your energy will be better applied in other, more heavenward directions. David is arguing that we must get a perspective on these people and these behaviours which will enable us to react in much more creative and fruitful ways – as we will see while moving through the alphabet. In the meantime, don’t fret.
1 Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the LORD
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.
12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18 The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
20 But the wicked will perish:
Though the LORD’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.
21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
22 those the LORD blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed.
23 The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
25 I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.
27 Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the LORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed;
the offspring of the wicked will perish.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.
30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.
32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
intent on putting them to death;
33 but the LORD will not leave them in the power of the wicked
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.
34 Hope in the LORD
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.
35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
36 but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.
37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future for the wicked.
39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
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