Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.
Envy against evil men is desiring and begrudging their pleasure and prosperity in sin. It is thinking that holy living is too strict. It includes desire to be with the wicked and share their joys. But such thoughts forget the depravity of their empty lives and the coming Judgment, when the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked destroyed (Ec 12:13-14).
The excitement and glitter of this world can make saints doubt the life of self-denial to which they are called. Even Asaph, the wonderful song leader appointed by David, had problems with envying the wicked. His lesson is the best reading on this subject (Ps 73:1-28). David and Solomon also warned against it (Pr 23:17-18; 24:19-20; Ps 37:1,7).
Men envy whoremongers’ variety. Wives envy a single woman’s freedom and lifestyle. Men envy riches and honors of ambitious peers. Children envy the toys and freedom of spoiled peers. Women envy attention given to immodest dressers. Men envy the free use of Sundays by church-rejecters. Preachers envy the crowds of compromising ministers.
Sin has pleasure. Only fools deny it. But there are a few small problems with sin that every wise man should consider. The pleasure of sin is very short, something like seconds (Pr 20:17; Gen 3:7; II Sam 13:1-20; Ps 36:1-2; Heb 11:25). Acts of sin by God’s children carry long-term and painful guilt and shame (II Sam 24:10; Jer 31:18-19; Luke 22:62).
The pleasure of sin brings with it many dysfunctional consequences (Pr 24:30-34; 29:15; Gen 19:30-38; 21:9-11; 38:11-26; I Kgs 11:1-8). Judgment in this life is just around the corner (Pr 13:21; Num 32:23; II Sam 12:7-12; I Kgs 14:6-13; 21:17-26; II Kgs 1:16). And then there is eternal judgment to pay as well (Luke 16:19-26; Heb 9:27; Rev 21:8).
Wise men trust Scripture and defy a pleasure-mad world. They crave God’s approval more than honor from sinners. They walk by faith, so their eyes are looking to heaven (II Cor 4:17-18; Heb 11:6). They do not let the envy of sinners even dull their contentment or peace in Christ. John Newton wrote, “Fading is the worldling’s pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show; solid joys and lasting treasure, none but Zion’s children know.”
Holy and zealous Christians are the only enviable persons in the world. Every adversity to them is a blessing, and every blessing is an earnest deposit of heaven. If you must covet something, crave the spiritual gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit (Matt 5:6; I Cor 12:31; Phil 3:8; I Tim 3:1). And always remember, the pleasures of the wicked are God’s delusions to fatten them for the coming slaughter (Gen 15:16; Ps 50:21-22; Rom 9:17).