Proverbs 23:17 (ESV) “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.”
Sin is often attractive. There are physical pleasures or financial gains to grab. Sin seems to offer fun and profit. But does it really? Does it ever really satisfy? I have not found it to be so. If man is immortal, then the slice of time before physical death is really a very small piece of a much longer life. The question we must ask, and answer, is: “If I am immortal, does this life matter?” What is my purpose and what will satisfy and last? C.S. Lewis said we are all either immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. No one is “ordinary.”
If your heart envies sinners, then you are not seeing them from God’s perspective against the backdrop of eternity. They are either destined to immortal horrors (I cringe at that truth) or can become destined to be everlasting splendors. That is why the proverb says, “continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.” If I continue in rational fear, then I live differently. I also, in fear of the Lord, view the needs and destiny of my fellow sinners differently. That is why Paul said this: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” – Romans 10:1 (ESV) He did not envy sinners and he feared the Lord. That drove him to love sinners, not envy them. He sought to lead others to repentance.
His true feelings about his fellow sinners scream from this passage: “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit – that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” – Romans 9:1-3 (ESV)
Let this sink in from C.S. Lewis and then decide if the envy of sinners is sane or insanity:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn: We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.” – C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses.
Note: vere latitat is “The truth of Christ” or “the true Christ.”