Job 21:16 But their prosperity is not in their own hands, so I stand aloof from the counsel of the wicked.
Job here touches on an issue that comes up in the Bible many times and is still common all around us: envy of those who ignore God and still seem to prosper. The thing is, a shallow person would rather have things easy here and now than have a guarantee of eternal life. Not many come to the realization King Hezekiah did: “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.” (Isaiah 38:17) We look at wealthy people of all sorts and would like to change places with them, not realizing that their life choices may well have condemned them to an eternity too horrible to imagine. It is true that a certain level of income correlates to less stress in life, but people who fixate on that lose sight of what is genuinely valuable, both on this earth and for eternity. Someone who worked several years as a Hollywood script writer has commented that the most miserable people they knew were what they called “trust fund kids,” people who never had to work for anything and so never had any real sense of accomplishment. The vast majority of Americans live in what would have been extreme luxury for most of history, but that makes them all the more prone to the attitude expressed in the verse just before this: “Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?” (Job 21:15) When you’re only focused on “What’s in it for me,” you miss out on the whole point of existence.
Like Paul, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12) I will certainly concede that having sufficient funds is much easier than not, but I have learned that isn’t what determines true happiness. Material things, specifically including money, are entirely temporal and thus temporary. I’m not 100% there yet, but I’m drawing closer and closer to the attitude Paul described: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18) It is one of the paradoxes of God’s economy that the visible is ephemeral! I have found that the more I focus on the values of the next life, that is, God’s kingdom and His righteousness, (Matthew 6:33) the happier I am in this life! That is at complete odds with the values of the world around me, and sadly, too many Christians haven’t updated their value systems. When we’re more concerned with the latest in social media than we are with what God is saying to us, we are being deceived.
Father, it’s easy to be tempted to feel holier-than-thou when I look at the world around me, but that is a major trap. Thank You for the memory I have of my own failures before You, reminding me of my own need for Your grace. Help me be an open channel of that grace so that Your Spirit through me may open people’s eyes to You and to what is genuinely valuable, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!