This question is similar to its opposite: “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” Both questions refer to what seems to be the perplexing injustice we witness every day. The 73rd Psalm is our answer to the very same questions that also tormented the psalmist. Finding himself in terrible distress and agony of soul he writes, “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” (Psalm 73:2-3).
The writer of this Psalm was a man named Asaph, a leader of one of the temple choirs. Obviously, he was not a wealthy man, but rather one who had dedicated his life to serving God (see 1 Chronicles 25). But, like us, he had experienced some difficulties and questioned the injustice of it all. He watched the evil people around him living by their own rules, enjoying all the wealth and pleasures of the world and collecting riches. He complains, “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills” (Psalm 73:4-5).
Asaph was looking at these people who didn’t have problems. They could pay their bills. They had plenty to eat and plenty of luxuries. But poor Asaph was stuck with directing the choir and trying to live godly. And to make things worse, his choice to serve God didn’t seem to be helping him. He began to envy these people and even to question God as to why He would allow such a thing to happen!
How often do we find ourselves relating to Asaph? We dedicate our lives to serving God. Then we witness the wicked, ungodly people around us get new possessions, luxurious homes, promotions, and beautiful clothes, while we struggle financially. The answer lies in the rest of the psalm. Asaph envied these evil people until he realized one very important thing. When he entered the sanctuary of God, he fully understood their final destiny: “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me 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! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies” (Psalm 73:16-20). Those who have temporary riches on earth are in reality spiritual beggars because they do not have true riches—eternal life.
There are many times when we do not understand what is happening to us, nor do we understand how providence works. When Asaph entered the sanctuary of God, he began to see that there was no need for him to be envious of the prosperity of the wicked because their prosperity is an illusion. He began to comprehend that the ancient deceiver, Satan, had used lies to distract him from the reality of God. Upon entering the sanctuary, Asaph realized that prosperity is a fleeting fulfillment, like a pleasant dream that pleases us only for a little while but, when we awaken, we realize it was not real. Asaph rebukes himself for his own stupidity. He admits to being “senseless and ignorant” to envy the wicked or to be jealous of the perishing. His thoughts then returned to his own happiness in God when he realized how much more joy, fulfillment, and true spiritual prosperity he had in the Creator.
We may not have everything we want here on earth, but we will one day prosper for all eternity through Jesus Christ our Lord. Whenever we are tempted to try the other road, we should remember that the other road is a dead end (Matthew 7:13). But the narrow road before us through Jesus is the only road that leads to eternal life. That should be our joy and our comfort. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 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 . . .” (Psalm 73:25, 27-28)
We need not concern ourselves when good things seem to happen to bad people. We only need to keep our focus on our Creator and enter into His presence every day through the portal of His holy Word. There we will find truth, contentment, spiritual riches, and eternal joy.