The vast majority of people in the world have had to deal with some kind of financial hardship from time to time. Money is tight, hours are spent at the kitchen table, or a small desk, deciding which bill gets paid first, or which bill gets paid this month! Coupons and sales take on a more urgent place in shopping. And the situation seems to go on and on.
When a few minutes are available, a person sits down to read a newspaper, or watch the news, and there is some story about someone winning a lottery for some obscene amount of money, or a Hollywood couple flying down to the Caribbean for a quick vacation. Then he looks through the mail and finds out that his medical insurance is going up AGAIN. “Too much month at the end of the money” is a cute phrase, but too often it’s just not that funny.
The situations described above can also apply to Christians. The blessings and hope found in the Good News of Jesus Christ is certainly valid, but life CAN get hard; and there are times that even faithful Christians might wish they had just a little more money, or be able to do a few more things. “Why if I won a million dollars, think what I could do for the Lord!” Day dreaming? Yes. But that natural side is still there with a seductive whisper – “You deserve more – you can have more – look at the rich in the world. Are they struggling like you? No. You should follow their examples…”
This is the very situation that the writer of Psalm 73 had experienced. He wrote in verses 1-3, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart! But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” The writer knew in his heart that the ways of the Lord God were true, but he still almost walked into the trap of allowing the apparent ease and riches of sinful people to fill him with envy and even bitterness. “When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.” (21-22) Happily, the key in the first three verses is that he “almost slipped”, he “came close to stumbling”. He did not give in to the temptation.
In the New Testament period, the same attraction existed and warnings were issued by Jesus Christ, “…and the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Matt 13:22) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21) The spiritual struggle in everyday living is constant. There are a variety of distractions that try to pull a Christian away from the path that is to be followed.
In the case of the psalmist, the threat was overcome. How? “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end.” (16-17) Quite simply, the writer refocused himself upon the Lord, God, His Will and His Word. Likewise, Christians must stay focused!
Too many become arrogant in their prosperity. Even Christians can become too absorbed in their things, their possessions. But this leads down a slippery path to ruin. Before long, a person feels like he/she really doesn’t need the Lord. “After all, look what I have done. Look what I have learned.” It is tragic that too many people truly believe that they have “outgrown” their childish notions about God and Jesus Christ. “They say, ‘How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?’” (vs 11)
The Psalmist finished his psalm with the following words, “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; you have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.”
We smile when we see a parent holding the hand of his/her small child who is just beginning to walk. They walk hand in hand down the sidewalk, or in a store. We know that the child feels very happy and grownup as he/she looks around at everything with great interest. The parent shares the joy, but that parent is also fulfilling the serious role of insuring the child’s safety and direction.
As Christians, we must stay focused upon the Lord, His Will, and His written word. When that happens, the distractions of life become less important. We can live and work with the secure knowledge that our Father has our future firmly in His, and that future is truly eternal.