Richard Cory had it all. He was impeccably dressed, a gentleman in all respects. Let’s face it, to the ladies he was a “hottie” and guys wished they could look like him. He was rich, richer than a king. Edwin Arlington Robinson pictures what many people would say was the perfect man. How many of us wouldn’t like to be Richard Cory with his taste in clothes, his good looks, and his wealth? He probably didn’t even want the adoration he got, but he got it. Then, as the poem goes, Richard Cory, with everything going for him, committed suicide.
While Richard Cory is fictional, stories like his happen in real life. People that we think have everything to live for end it all. In many cases we find that beneath the polished veneer of their lives, there was some dark secret that was about to be exposed. Having lived the “good life” while no one knew the truth about them, they couldn’t bear the shame of the truth going public and they decided to end it all. Without knowing their secrets, many had admired these people who had gone to the top. Even worse, many look at the money and power of those in the criminal world and admire them, not realizing the price to be paid for emulating them might be their own lives. In today’s Psalm we get a glimpse of how easy it is to fall into the trap of focusing on wealth and power instead of on God. “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.” (Psalm 73:3-4)
The Christian life is often a struggle. We recognize the joy in following Christ and know that God has desires about how we live. We seek to honor Him by our lives. Then we see others who have no thought of God cutting corners, engaging in less than ethical dealings, and doing the very things we have shunned because of our commitment to following God’s leadership. And they prosper. They have the nicest houses and the coolest cars. When politicians want advice, they seek these people out. Newspapers extol them in lavish articles often while looking down on Christians who are living according to their principles. Perhaps one of the best descriptions of Christians on this issue comes from a Ken Medema song where he describes them in this way: “They’re not too good for the economy because they don’t believe in things.” And so our principles are mocked and Christians lose in court when we seek to stand by them. In the face of all these defeats and all this ridicule, it’s easy to look at those who are thriving in society and wish we could be like them. They have it all together.
Only we find out that they don’t. Their evil comes to the top for all to see. Criminals may run a crime empire only to discover that they are imprisoned in their own compound – unable to show their faces outside of their mansions for fear of arrest or assassination. Those who have risen to the top, perhaps by unethical means, end up with personal lives that become the subject of stories for the National Enquirer. Those of us who follow Christ may not be at the top of the social mountain, but rarely do our lives become fodder for gossip columnists. Very few people want to read that I am living a quiet life with an amazing wife of many years and three great kids. No, for these columnists, Christian principles don’t sell…but for the followers of Christ, Christian principles pay. Our wages for following Christ are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Our greatest reward is in our relationship with the God who grants us grace.
Lord, it’s so easy to be envious when looking at those who have achieved great things in this world. Remind me that there is nothing greater in this life than my relationship with You. Thank you for the joy I have in following You that I am able to do because of Your grace.