Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace…
I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing…
I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.
Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
Reflection – Back to the Monday Psalter, with bits and pieces of Psalm 37. There is quite a bit more in this vein in this rather long psalm (to be honest, and meaning no disrespect, it is rather repetitive).
This is a very human psalm, addressing a very human emotion we can all relate to a bit, I think.
Namely, the resentment of the prospering wicked. The experience, which everyone has, that in this life justice is imperfect, bad people do quite well for themselves (often) and good people not infrequently get the short end of things.
This bothers us—which seeing as how it is an incredibly common and normal experience of life in the world, actually is indirect evidence that we are not entirely made for this world, that there is something in us that years for a justice that is not of this world. The human passion for justice is one small argument for the existence of God.
Nonetheless, this psalm is concerned with helping us stay peaceful in the meantime. And the advice it gives is a nice little bit of homely wisdom. ‘Fret not yourself’. This could well stand as good advice for all those using social media. The Internet too often is an Outrage Machine churning out fodder day and night for us to fret over. Whether it is the latest depredations of our political leaders, the latest misdeeds or silly comments by our celebrity class, some disagreeable or offensive move by some high church official, or just some bad behaviour by some random person that happened to get filmed and went viral—there is always something to fret about, something to get all upset over.
Fret not yourself. While Psalm 37 is an early psalm and there is little sense of an afterlife in it, and hence the psalmist has to assert that justice eventually gets done in this world (we know that it doesn’t, often), we who are Christians can confidently assert that all things will be set at right in the end.
If the wicked are prospering and the good ailing, it is woeful for sure, but it is temporary. And there is little good achieved, and much harm done, by climbing on board the latest outrage ride on the outrage machine, adding one’s voice to the latest Greek chorus baying for blood from the latest wrongdoer.
Fret not yourself. And this psalm is really about keeping your focus where you need to keep it, on doing what is good in your own life, in living righteously where you are, in not getting distracted. That is the harm done by the outrage machine—it distracts us, and diverts our natural human passion for justice from where it should go—to self-examination and zeal for the good—to an ultimately futile and useless expenditure of energy.
Fret not yourself, because it does nothing to add to the store of justice and goodness in the world. All flesh is in God’s hands, and we only need concern ourselves with doing the good that is before us today. So let’s get on with it.