The phrase they got away with murder communicates that we believe our sense of justice has been vilified. Whether on the basketball court or the courtroom we think that someone did something wrong, and that they didn’t have to pay.
Such a belief nearly led to the undoing of Asaph, the writer of the 73rd Psalm. He wrote,
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:2-3).
There are three subtle shifts that Asaph confesses. Because they are subtle, each of us is vulnerable to the same temptations that Asaph faced.
His Eyes Shift
For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:3).
Jealousy starts with a longing look. The coveting heart is revealed when our glance lingers. Jesus had strong words about the eye as the lamp to the body (Matt. 6:22-23). He understood that staring at something allows the mind to begin to desire it even though it is not our possession. Asaph’s eyes shifted off of the Lord, and unto the prideful man. For just a moment, he wished he could be that man.
His Desires Shift
They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind (Psalm 73:5)
If we look at what we can’t have long enough eventually it awakens our desire. We become dissatisfied with the life that we have been given, and we long for something more. The phrase they are not communicates how his desires had shifted. Asaph wanted the freedom of the wicked man. From his perspective, the wicked could do what he wanted without consequence. He could feed his guilty pleasures, without feeling guilty. Then, he could wake up the next morning and do it all over again without the slightest pang of conscience. Dissatisfaction with one’s circumstances is sure to undermine the belief that God is good (Psalm 84:11).
His Beliefs Shift
Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence (Psalm 73:13).
It was not in vain that the Psalmist had done the right thing, but it certainly felt that way.
Once the eyes dwell upon another’s possession, once the desire for what you don’t possess intensifies, your belief system will start to crumble. Asaph temporarily lost sight of the eternal rewards that would be his, and the eternal judgment that would fall on the wicked. He had a rising sense of entitlement. Such a position hardens your heart to your need of grace.
But there is hope. For the Psalmist ends his song with refocusing his eyes, his desires and his beliefs.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is my strength and my portion forever . . . But for me it is good to be near to God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of your works(Psalm 73:25-26).