Friday, 20 November 2020
Title: Are you a Serial Fretter?
By: Ps. Cheng Cheung
Psalm 37: 1 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. (NKJV)
Can any of us claim exemption from this problem?
Which one, you may ask.
Isn’t it obvious?
I would certainly not be envious of evildoers. Would you? Surely they will receive the just consequences of their sinful wrongs, sooner or later, whether in this life or the next.
So we are agreed – the thing we should not do is fret because of evildoers. And what does it mean, to fret? It means to get heated up, or to get worked up. One person once defined it as that which makes a person rough on the surface, causing him to rub and wear himself and others away. Isn’t it true that an irritable, irrational, and critical person not only wears himself out but is also very draining and tiring to others?¹
Have we all not gone through times of fuming, fretting, fulminating, frustration and perhaps rage because of other people’s wrongdoing, their harmful attitudes and harmful actions? The Psalmist uses the phrase thrice at the start of the Psalm, as if emphasizing this admonition and appealing to our reason why we should not fret, although it is a common reaction.
Let’s be honest. We all tend to fret when we encounter people who, in our view, abuse their power or authority, people who are highhanded, insensitive, manipulative, abusive, hypocritical, exploitative, selfish, recklessly dangerous, or lack integrity. These people often leave us exasperated, and we start by shaking our heads in disbelief.
With continuous interaction, the common tendency then is we move up to the next level. We start to fret about such behaviour with a sense of dismay and disapproval until we finally reach the critical and cynical scale, with the result that we become resentful and vindictive, compromising our own spiritual walk with the Lord and our positive influence amongst those around us. The Psalmist warns in v 8:
Refrain from anger and forsake wrath.
Do not fret; it only brings evil.
This is why we are warned not to fret. Fretting over the evil of others can lead to evil on the fretter’s part. It is wrong, it is harmful, it is needless.
In verse one, the Psalm seems to pair the two admonitions DO NOT FRET and NOR BE ENVIOUS against one common genre of people. This common group are the “evildoers/workers of iniquity/doers of wickedness/those who are evil.”
You could swop the second set of phrases around (in fact, in all the translations the phrases are virtually interchangeable), BUT do not fret and do not envy are two different things. However, the Psalmist lists ONE common set of reasons why his readers should not fret over and should not envy the doers of evil/doers of wickedness, and the reasons have to do with the inevitability of the end result.
- The evildoers will soon be cut down like the grass, their prosperity is transient, as are the wicked themselves (v 2).
- Those who wait upon the Lord shall inherit the earth; the evildoers shall be no more (v 9 -10).
- The wicked plots against the just shall boomerang on them (v 12-15).
- The arms of the wicked shall be broken and Yahweh will uphold the righteous (v 17).
- The days of the upright shall be forever, but the wicked shall vanish (v 18-20).
Finally, a note regarding being envious, especially of the prosperity of others. It is foolish and smacks of insecurity and discontentedness toward God to repine or be envious at the prosperity of others. Whether they are godly or ungodly, it is God who is the dispenser of the bounty they enjoy. He has a right to do what He wills with His own. To be envious in such a case is to find fault with the providence of God.
Prayer for Today
Gracious Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word which is living and active, and pierces to the division of soul and spirit, and discerns the thoughts and intentions of my heart. You know me, whether I am prone to fret and be envious.
Help me trust You and do good (verse 3), find delight also in You (verse 4) and be still and wait patiently for You to act (verse 7), and thereby overcome my poor natural instincts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
¹ “Streams in the Dessert” – LB Cowman
-惟有等候耶和华的、必承受地土；恶人要归于无有。（第 9 -10节)
¹ “Streams in the Dessert” – LB Cowman