The author of Psalm 73 complains bitterly to God about the wicked getting away with murder. Why God, he openly laments, do evil people seem to prosper but the good die young? “I was envious of the arrogant,” the psalmist admits, because “their bodies are healthy and sleek,” “they are free of the burdens of life,” and they are “always carefree, increasing their wealth.”
It is a common human complaint. Those of us who try to do the right thing, follow the rules, and grow daily in our ability and desire to love God and neighbor may at times believe that our efforts ultimately are futile and useless and that our attempts are foolish. “Is it vain that I have kept my heart pure,” the author continues, “washed my hands in innocence?” To wonder whether you are the only one who seeks the path of righteousness in a world otherwise gone mad is a very lonely state.
If you fall into this category, many spiritual and religious leaders would applaud you for your righteous indignation over the seeming prosperity of wrongdoers. Indeed, the Bible tells us to steer clear of evil. As we continue our walk through the Old Testament book of Proverbs in our current message series called Foolproof, we hear King Solomon instruct his son, for example, to avoid at all costs “the path of the wicked, and . . . the way of evil men” (4:14). Rather, he says, “the path of the righteousness is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (4:18).
Of course, we should give a wide berth to those who “cannot sleep unless they have done wrong” and are “robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble” (Proberbs 4:16). Sin obviously should not be embraced or condoned. But to the extent you constantly feel isolated and alone in your moral goodness, are perpetually worried about the absence of virtue in most of the people you encounter, and become depressed over the lack of righteousness in others, you might actually be judging too much.
A propensity to condemn others for what seem like their faults and failings often demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of the Catholic Church’s teaching on morality, as well as the rather convenient refusal to turn a roving critical eye inward. It is all too easy for smug, self-satisfied Christians to cluck their tongues and shake their heads over what in fact may not be the ethical transgressions of others, while too easily excusing their own shortcomings. As Jesus once said, “why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). Indeed, his instruction remains sound today: “Stop judging that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:1).
Tune in to our Sunday morning message this week live in church or online to learn more about the true path to righteousness.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson