Do not be envious of evil men... - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Biblical Wisdom
September 1, 2017

Do not be envious of evil men...

by Dr. Bill Edgar, Geneva College Board of Trustees Member, Former Geneva College President and longtime pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPNCA)

Proverbs 24:1-2 – “Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them. For their heart devises violence, and their lips speak of troublemaking.”

Why want to be around evil men? Power! As a common New York Mafia don, or as the dictator of Russia, an evil man through violence and scheming can gain riches and power, for himself and his comrades. That is a large part of the attraction of jihadis, as it was earlier of the Nazis and the Bolsheviks: power through extreme and confident violence. Do not be envious of such men, let alone join them.

Here is Augustine’s famous account of political power from the City of God, Book IV Chapter 4.

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply, which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you who does it with a great fleet are styled emperor.”

Satan, a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44) offered Jesus the evil man’s promise: join me and I’ll give you power and riches. “Fall down and worship me,” he said, and I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Matthew 4:9). But Satan does not rule the world. God does. He decrees that the meek, inheritors of the earth, and peacemakers, called sons of God, will live full and complete lives, but the way of the transgressor will be hard (Proverbs 13:15). Wise men have nothing to do with evil men who confidently plan troublemaking and do violence.

Psalm 73 is a meditation on this proverb. The Psalmist saw wicked men’s success and thought that a virtuous life was a mistake, until he went to the House of God. There in God’s presence, he realized that it was the wicked who stood on slick and dangerous ground, but the righteous were safe with God forever. Good people living by faith should never envy evil people and their seeming success, garnered often by violence. The success is a mirage, as faith in the living God understands.