California Farmer 248:8 (Apr. 15, 1978), p. 20.
Two years ago I met a rookie professional basketball player; for sitting on the bench, he was being paid $104,000 a year. Everyone thought it was wonderful that a young man, from a minority group, was doing so well. Some friends took me to dinner in a Los Angeles restaurant; at the next table there sat a very popular man in the world of entertainment who usually makes several hundred thousand dollars a year at a minimum. He is very widely admired. All well and good. If these men render services worth that much to people, then they have earned their pay.
What bothers me is this: if a small farmer makes $15 to $30,000 a year with hard and steady work, he is called an exploiter of farm workers, an enemy of social progress, and some other things less polite. Again, if a very able businessman makes $25 to $75,000 a year, he is a capitalistic leach and an enemy of mankind. Why the difference in attitudes?
Why this hatred of the real producers in our society? Why is it right for one man to do well, but not for another? Our politicians have very good incomes. Why do they regard it as criminal for others to have a good return on their work?
Scripture tells us that “[a] sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones” (Prov. 14:30). A sound heart here means a life based clearly on the Lord and His Word; it means a relaxed and trusting heart. To live in such a faith means life and health. An envious heart destroys a man’s “bones,” the structure of his life, and he turns with hatred against all who have structure in their lives. The envious seek to destroy what they cannot tolerate and do not have the faith and character to develop.
The envious thus can indulge and tolerate the athlete’s and entertainer’s wealth. They cannot tolerate the success of good and honest working men, because such success points to the need for patience, work, and discipline in themselves. Our Lord put His finger on the cause: “Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” (Matt. 20:15). He made clear to the Pharisees that, indeed, their reaction to Him was evil precisely because He was good. The immoral hate the moral; the ungodly hate the godly; the unproductive hate the productive; and those who want the world to give them a living hate those whose lives make clear that their way is false.
Our problems begin in sin. Their answers begin with regeneration. Today we are trying to solve too many problems by encouraging envy. We solve nothing thereby, and we destroy much.