Many a slip..
Psalm 73: 2 – 12
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity
their evil imaginations have no limits.
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
John Bunyan’s ‘Hero’ in Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian, does not have it easy. He has many a slip as he journeys toward the Celestial City, so much so that he his only able to successfully complete his journey through his own faith and the help of many he meets along the way. Christian knew where he wanted to get to and roughly how to get there but the route was often difficult to follow, and as if that was not bad enough there were always those who would try to distract him and set him on the wrong course. But as the hymn says ‘those who do beset him round with dismal stories do but themselves confound his strength the more is’.
The Psalmist would empathise with Christian as he recounts a very similar story in this Psalm. Why did he almost slip? Because he allowed himself to be distracted, he had come to envy the rich and wicked. Here though he sees how easy they seem to have life and he envies that. They have no struggles just an existence so carefree they can claim to be more knowledgeable than God.
That is of course a mistaken view; not all rich people are wicked and not all wicked people are rich.
I once took a youth group to Iona for a week’s retreat. The participants came from all over my lot from very rural Aberdeenshire, some from small towns, others from inner cities in Scotland and Northern England, and one group from a very well heeled congregation in one of Scotland’s most affluent areas. One evening when the Iona staff had taken our charges off on a night hike we leaders all sat around drinking tea and talking. The subject turned to the role of the church in modern Britain. And this is where things started to get difficult. One of the youth leaders an earnest young man of 20 who cared deeply about the plight of the poor in his area of Dundee turned on the minister of the rich congregation and accused him of wasting his calling and talents on those who were too rich. The minister stayed calm and said “Perhaps I have a different ministry to someone working in an inner city priority area, and I never forget some of my members are indeed rich, but this does not make them immune from cancer, it does not mean their children do not become sick, it does not mean the curse of drugs passes them by, it does not mean relationships don’t break down. Their problems may be different to those of the inner city but God still cares for them and as God’s servant it is my job to love and help them”.
None of us are free from all cares, we all have a burden to carry and we all will slip up now and again. Thank God he sends his servants to help us get back on our feet, no matter who or what we are.
Lord God our loving Father, sometimes we run freely, sometimes we crawl awkwardly, but Lord we always hope to be progressing towards you. When we slip, when we fall, or when we sit exhausted, come and raise us up again we pray.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,