Do you look at politicians, high paid sports figures and other rich people with an envious heart? What about those that win the lottery? Are you happy for them? Most likely not, as you wish it were you that had won. God’s word is a great tool for measuring our level of contentedness or discontent.
By reading the bible you’ll find that we are cautioned against discontent at the prosperity and success of evil-doers (Ps. 37:1, 2): Fret not thyself, neither be thou envious. We may suppose that David speaks this to himself first, and preaches it to his own heart, for the suppressing of those corrupt passions which he found working there, and then leaves it in writing for instruction to others that might be in similar temptation.
When we look around we see the world full of evil-doers and workers of iniquity, that flourish and prosper, that have what they will and do what they will, that live in ease and pomp themselves and have power in their hands to do mischief to those about them. So it was in David’s time; and therefore, if it is so still, let us not marvel at the matter, as though it were some new or strange thing.
When we look within we find ourselves tempted to fret at this, and to be envious against these scandals and burdens, these blemishes and common nuisances, of this earth. We are apt to fret at God, as if he were unkind to the world and unkind to his church in permitting such men to live, and prosper, and prevail, as they do. We are apt to fret ourselves with vexation at their success in their evil projects. We are apt to envy them the liberty they take in getting wealth, and perhaps by unlawful means, and in the indulgence of their lusts, and to wish that we could shake off the restraints of conscience and do so too.
We are tempted to think them the only happy people, and are inclined to imitate them, and to join ourselves with them, that we may share in their gains and eat of their dainties; and this is what we are warned against: Fret not thyself, neither be thou envious. Fretfulness and envy are sins that are their own punishments; they are the uneasiness of the spirit and the rottenness of the bones; it is therefore in kindness to ourselves that we are warned against them.
Yet that is not all; When we look forward with an eye of faith we shall see no reason to envy wicked people their prosperity, for their ruin is at the door and they are ripening to receive it, Ps. 37:2. They flourish, but as the grass, and as the green herb, which nobody envies nor frets at.
The flourishing of a godly man is like that of a fruitful tree (Ps. 1:3), but that of the wicked man is like grass and herbs, which are very short-lived. (1.) They will soon wither of themselves. Outward prosperity is a fading thing, and so is the life itself to which it is confined. (2.) They will soon be cut down by the judgments of God. Their triumphing is short, but their weeping and wailing will be everlasting because they chose the wealth of the world instead of the wealth in God.
Examine your heart. Do you have any envy? Ask God to remove it from your life that you might not fret thyself or be thou envious but instead live forever in His kingdom.