Most, well really ALL of us — at some point believe life isn’t fair. The truth is life isn’t fair, and it hasn’t been fair nor unaccompanied by pain and loss since the Garden of Eden.
Doesn’t it seem that some people have all the “luck?” Life appears to come ridiculously easy to these people. They have more than enough money, fine homes and don’t have to scratch out an existence the way we mere mortals must. If you have ever felt that way, you are not the only one. Such feelings are part of the human condition. We even find biblical characters and authors joining in the throng of those who cry, “unfair!”
Psalm 73 is one of eleven Psalms Asaph wrote and is dated to 979 BC. Asaph was a Levite — one of those assigned by David as a worship leader (1 Chronicles 16:5-8). He put into words the resentment many of us experience at one time or another:
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore, pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquities; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore, their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like-always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. (Psalm 73:1-15)
He seemed to be saying, yes, God is good to Israel, but my personal life is full of problems and trials. I look around, and it is the evil people who are prospering greatly and drawing a deferential following. They are healthy, extremely proud, and malicious toward the poor and oppressed. And they are also likely to be the ones doing the oppressing! He said these things in his heart, not aloud where anyone might hear. He may have thought at the time that God was unaware of his bitter feelings. But he did come to realize he was envying these very nasty people, so much so that he nearly took a fall, spiritually speaking.
We all know people like these arrogant folks, and we also know many people whose suffering seems to go on and on, one terrible loss or affliction after another. How do we keep ourselves from becoming bitter and angry or even jealous? How do we escape that trap if we already feel bitter and angry? We all see many people today — many of our own national leaders, who are enormously wealthy and oppressing others while being quite “above the law” themselves. There are the nouveau riche tech giants, lording their power over the little people who lifted them up so high and mighty through the loyal use of their products. It does seem like the very wealthy “kings” of government and industry are especially susceptible to great self-aggrandizement, just as Asaph noted. It’s not “Wow, I’ve had it so very good” but “Wow, I am really somebody SPECIAL — a Master of the Universe!” But the rest of us [little people] have our own challenge — to keep ourselves from destructive envy and bitterness — and/or to keep ourselves from blindly following and fawning over the powerful, as even Asaph mentions.
Asaph also notes that the powerfully wealthy people he speaks of think that God does not see what they are doing and cannot know how they are mistreating others. That’s where they were 100% wrong.
One of the great things about the Psalms is the way the various writers tend to shift focus from the problem to the solution. Asaph wrote:
When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
Evil people, wealthy or poor, have no real security, even though they may think for a time that they do. The reason we say “wealthy or poor” is that the wealthy have no lock on wickedness or evil doing. We are all guilty before God, just as the Bible teaches.
“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10 NIV)
And by the way, the “little people” have no lock on suffering or pain either. All people suffer heartache and loss, though it may seem to onlookers that the wealthy and powerful do not. It is the way of this earthly life. Asaph goes on:
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Asaph’s great distress over the unfairness in life was the result of his focus. It caused his heart to be grieved and his spirit embittered. As God became the center of his thinking, instead of the seeming good fortune of the wicked, he came to realize that God has him by the hand. God gives him counsel and will take him to be with God. Note that God did not leave him, even when he basically accused God of gross unfairness. That hand of God on the redeemed is true security.
What of material possessions? Asaph comes to realize that in truth, “earth has nothing I desire besides you.” With this understanding, his whole demeaner changes. He is still comparing, but the comparison is of eternal possessions:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Psalm 73:16-28)1The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by Permission of Biblica, Inc.® All rights reserved worldwide
Decades ago, I (Don) sat with an elderly Christian, Oscar. I think he may have been retired since before we were born. We were on the edge of losing our business and looking for guidance and consolation. At some point, I said, “God wouldn’t let me lose the business, would He?” Gentle Oscar Johnson (pronounced “Yonson” in his Swedish accent) answered me, as kindly as he could muster, “He might.” Oscar well understood pain and loss. He and his wife, Nanny, had a child, an adult child, that was severely handicapped. He had the mental capacity of a very small child. Those two wonderful saints cared for him in their homes until they went to be with the Lord. Oscar and Nanny certainly understood that life was full of pain and loss. But they had learned to keep their eyes on eternity, where they would dwell forever with the God who loved them. They knew their son would be there too.
Life is unfair. We live in a fallen world inhabited by sinners, some of who seem especially evil. And we must struggle against our own fallen natures as long as we live. We struggle with health issues, financial issues, and the painful loss of loved ones, to name but a few. We find a common theme repeated in quite a few Psalms. The writers begin with a crying out to God, asking where He is in all of their sufferings, asking if He has abandoned them. They point out the unfairness of life and the pain of their suffering. But as with this Psalm, we observe a gradual change as they release their pain and anguish to the One Who cares for them, the One Whose merciful hand is on them all the while.
As Paul states in Romans 8:18-21:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-21 NIV)Ω
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|The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by Permission of Biblica, Inc.® All rights reserved worldwide