On the Rock or On the Rocks

"Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the Lord always." Proverbs 23:17

A contemporary view of envy may be: wishing I could trade places with someone else who seems to have a better life than the one God gave me. The same word for envy is sometimes translated in Proverbs for the word "reverence." This could be a warning to step away from the altar of celebrity worship. The tendency to want what others have is not new to the human condition. Words like envy, jealousy and covet fill the Word of God like flashing lights on a dashboard. When they start blinking in our lives, it is time to pull over and let God check under our hood.

As a Texan growing up on Long Island, New York, I fell in love with the New York Yankees. I still remember my first professional baseball game at the old Yankee Stadium, "The house that Ruth built." Nestled in Yonkers, like the proverbial gardenia in a garbage can , it was a magical place. When I emerged from the dark passage ways of the ball park on the evening of May 12, 1961, I got my first glimpse of the immaculate playing field. I was mesmerized. The bright lights magnified the red clay, the manicured green grass, and the perfect white stripes separating the stands from the field of play. It was a sight to behold. Then the pin-striped, "Bronx Bombers" walked from the dugout with the swagger of champions. At first, "Moose" Skowron, at second, Bobby Richardson, short-stop, Tony Kubek, third base, Clete Boyer, behind the plate, Yogi Berra, and on the mound, left-hander, "Whitey" Ford, in the outfield, Maris, Mantle, and Pepitone. Later in the evening, Pepitone would go to first base, and Elston Howard would take over in left. It was Yogi's birthday and he hit a home run. The Yanks beat the LA Angels. I was only 11 years old, but already a serious fan. I put the fan in fanatic. Being able to recite the starting lineup of this team impressed a friend of mine a few years ago, and he rewarded me with a gift of a "Whitey Ford" autograph baseball. My youngest daughter Allyson has put her claim on it when I die. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

I put this in the category of harmless hero worship. As I grew older, I learned the difference between the content of a player's character and his conduct on the field. For instance, Bobby Richardson has grown in my estimation, and Mickey Mantle has fallen a notch or two. Mickey will always have my heart, but I couldn't help his liver. Sad story. Nuff said.

Magazines like "People" and "Instyle" regale us with what the celebrities are doing, and what they are wearing. Television is overloaded with shows that stalk every move a celebrity makes and record every word they say. They seem intent on exposing the flaws of the newest flavor of the month and bumping them off the pedestal to make room for another victim of new found fame. The cult of celebrity is alive and well, and it craves more and more of what it does not have. Envious people love to hate people who have what they really want.

Envy reveals a hole in the heart, that only God can fill. Trying to satisfy hunger and thirst with anything that is man-made only leads to a more ravenous appetite. God's meal plan for our lives begins with living water and the bread of life, Jesus. Spending time with Him, and listening to what He says for us to do will give us a full and meaningful life, in spite of what contemporary culture may try to lead us to believe. The ash heap of history is littered with more examples than I can list of people who were stars, and then they fell from the sky. Charting one's ship by a course based on what the stars have to say usually ends up on the rocks.

David, the father of Solomon, must have been a hero to his son. What Solomon shares in Proverbs, his father sang about in Psalms.

"Fret not yourself because of evil doers, be not envious toward wrong-doers. For they will wither quickly like the grass, and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate 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 do it." Psalms 37:1-5

Like any son, he probably wanted to be like dad when he grew up. That is not envy, but a legacy. Jesus is the Rock. A life built on the Rock will not end up on the rocks.