“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.”
I love this verse. And not merely because of the fantastic phrase, “fret not thyself.” I love it because it’s one of those verses that really pegs it, sums it up, and pins the tail on the donkey.
The thing that’s so noticeable here is that we are told not to do two things.
1. Don’t fret over evildoers.
2. Don’t be envious of them.
But don’t those two things seem like opposites? We tend to picture the person wringing their hands and fretting over evildoers as being in one camp, and the person who is envious of evildoers over on the totally other side of the road. Isn’t it a bit weird that David treats those two issues like two sides of the same coin? But there is a whole wealth of wisdom in this.
Lots of times we cover our own envy with a thin frosting of faux righteous indignation. It may fool our friends, relations, and even ourselves, but it doesn’t fool God.
Have you ever gotten really wound up about another woman’s immodest outfit? Really fired up and indignant over the outrage to God and country that she was perpetrating? If you stop and think about it for a minute, was it perhaps because deep down you actually kinda wish that you could look like that, dress like that, or turn heads like that? And are you maybe channeling that envy into indignance about her sin . . . which handily covers up your own sin and has the added benefit of making you look like you have a real zeal for godliness? This verse has two things to say to you. Fret not thyself because of evildoers, and neither be thou envious.
Has your daughter ever told you about all the terrible catty gossipy meanies at school who are sinning up a storm? Or about the other girls who are terrible flirts? Teach her how to not fret over evildoers, and at the same time teach her to search her own heart for envy.
You know that awful smell you get in the kitchen when a dishrag has gone sour? Let’s say you walk into the kitchen and catch a whiff of it. Obviously, your first move is to start hunting around and figure out where that rag is so that you can deal with it. If it didn’t happen to be sitting in plain sight on the sink, you would institute a thorough investigation. You wouldn’t be content with the fact that you glanced into the sink and didn’t see anything obviously causing the smell. You would leave no stone unturned, right? The same should be true when you feel a rising indignance over someone else’s sin. That’s the whiff of sour . . . and it’s a clue that there is a dishrag of envy lurking somewhere in your heart. Stop and pray, and ask God to help you find it wherever it is so that you can deal with it.
Obviously, I’m not saying there’s no such thing as righteous anger. But even with righteous anger, we’re told not to let the sun go down on it. Righteous anger is like manna – it can rot overnight and start to grow worms. And faux righteous anger . . . well it’s wormy to begin with.
The other thing to notice is that this verse isn’t denying the existence of evildoers. It’s not saying, “Stop worrying about them because they’re not that bad.” No, they’re genuine evildoers. They are, in actual fact, sinning up a storm. God will judge it. Immodest outfits, cattiness, gossip, all of it. But fret not thyself. Don’t get wound up. And if you are fretting thyself . . . look in your own heart for envy.