"Do not fret because of evil doers or be envious of the wicked"
This is another in a series of negative prohibitions that are designed to save us from a great deal of pain and difficulty.
This is a surprising Hebrew word charah, which means to burn, to be kindled with anger. It is translated usually as anger or burning. Only four times is it translated as fret. We would have expected, based upon the translation, that the word would have the root idea of worry or concern.
Solomon is not telling us to stop worrying about those who live outside of the boundaries of the Ten Commandments. He is telling us to stop being angry and upset about the corruption, the perversion, and the destruction that is being done by those who are given to selfishness. It doesn't do any good. It eats you up and does not affect them. This is very surprising and unexpected. One would have thought that this would constitute righteous anger – being angry about the injustice that is taking place in the world. But Solomon, in his wisdom, tells us to let it go. Do not let your emotions go out in a constant burning about what they are doing. In the finish of the idea he tells us that you can let your anger go because they are not getting ahead. Even though they look like they are winning, it is a shortcut to nowhere.
Don't allow yourself to get all worked up about what they are doing. Now this does not mean that one should let it go as if it were not wrong. It does not mean that if you have the opportunity or authority to put a stop to it that you should not. It means that you should not get all spun-up about what they are doing. The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
This is the Hebrew word qana, which means to be jealous, zealous, envy. This word is also a very strong emotion that should be avoided, Solomon says. If you are not careful, you can find yourself wanting the possessions and lifestyle of those who have no moral boundaries. This is a mistake. Do not allow your soul to want to possess the ways or things of the people who will be destroyed in judgment. It is a great temptation. They look like they have everything that a person could want. They are outwardly successful and seemingly abundantly prosperous. They cheated to get it and it is a strong pull to have what they have. This is a mistake; do not let your heart go there. There are problems in the camp of the wicked that you cannot see. Their "success" comes with great costs. It will not last and it will all be swept away in the judgment.
This is an interesting proverb because it deals exclusively with emotional control. Don't let your emotions be expressed in certain directions. Hold them in; hold them back. This is foreign to our ears. We are not used to hearing admonitions to control our emotions. It is crucial if we are going to win a war against wickedness and temptation. We are going to have to keep our emotions from running out toward the enemy before we have the wisdom to handle the problem.
One day my daughter got a lesson in temptation. She had saved her money to go to the store and right before she went, the ice cream truck came by. All of sudden she had to have an ice cream. She ran out to the ice cream truck and spent two of the three dollars that she had saved on a big snow cone. She came in weeping. “Daddy, I accidentally spent my money on this.” I know that she wanted me to replace the money that she had saved so that she could still go to the store. Instead I allowed her to understand the lesson in resisting temptation.
This is how temptation works, I told her. It wants you to spend your money or something else you have that is precious on something dumb and momentary. She spent the next two hours lamenting, “I wish I would have never heard the ice cream truck. I wish I would have plugged my ears so it would not have tempted me. I wish I could run after the ice cream truck and give it back to him.” I asked her what she did with the snow cone. “I threw it away,” she said. “I didn't want it.” “I wasted my money,” she said. “I spent it on something stupid.” Her emotions went out after something that looked good, and she did not control them enough. It was a hard lesson to allow her to learn, but it was essential. I told her how tough it was, and we spent considerable time comforting her and helping her through this lesson. She got caught up by the music, the moment, her friends, and how good the snow cone looked. But it cost her the money that she could not afford to lose. It cost her what she had been saving for. I watch others fall victim to the lure of temptation all the time. Be careful; do not allow your emotions to suck you into a problem.