What a Kroc! ~ October 06, 2019 ~ Psalm 37:1-7
This is one of the best loved psalms. One thing I want to say about the psalms, before we get going on Psalm 37 – the psalms are great place to start reading Scripture. If you’re not sure, you get a Bible – “I’m not sure what to read today, where to go…” – you’ll never go wrong with opening the psalms. Why? Because the psalms are frequently reflecting emotions and circumstances and situations that you are going through as well. If you’re angry at God, there’s a psalm for it. If you’re frustrated at your life situation, there’s a psalm for it. If you’re celebrating something, there’s a psalm for it. There’s a psalm for everything. Invariably, you will come across someone who can identify with you.
Now, one of the things David was puzzled about this morning, was the fact that the wicked – bad people – often seemed to prevail; and he was wondering, when will the Lord bring justice? Why do good things seem to happen to not-so-good people? Have you ever thought that? This is also one of what we call “wisdom psalms,” because they make a case for the primary importance of wisdom in instructing readers in dealing with questions, and issues, and doubts that arise in daily life; and one of the ones that was frustrating David was, “Why do those people seem to get their way?” So, please join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God. Let us pray.
Lord, upon the pages of this book is Your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Psalm 37, first 7 verses:
Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait
patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret
about their wicked schemes.
May the Lord bless to our reading and understanding His holy and inspired Word.
Well, one of the things that jumped out to me in reading this psalm was the second half of verse one. Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. Envy those who do wrong? Who would envy those who do wrong? Has anyone ever seen The Godfather films? Made in 1972, the early 70s, it tells the story of an Italian immigrant by the name of Vito Corleone, and he comes to the United States to seek his fortune; and he eventually does build a big empire. And you can’t help – at least I couldn’t help as I’m watching this film – kind of connect with how dedicated he was to his family, how much they seemed to love each other. They were also in church quite a bit. It was kind of interesting – they’re ordering people to be executed, and in the next scene they’re doing a baptism! It was weird! But you couldn’t help as the films go on having a little bit of empathy for a mobster! That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever! I’m envying those who do wrong. If you’re too young for The Godfather, how about this one? How about Oceans 11, 12, and 13? Great movies, right? George Clooney, Brad Pitt. The premise is a team of people getting together to rob a casino, and you can’t stop yourself as the film goes on to hope they get away with it! And I sat there thinking to myself after the third one, thoroughly enjoying myself, why am I routing for the criminals?! What’s wrong with me!
I think it reveals – this is movie Sunday; I’ve got a lot of movie references today – it’s reveals with the Jedi call the “Dark Side.” Remember this great scene from the very first Star Wars movie in 1977? Luke confronts Darth Vader, they have a lightsaber fight, Luke wins. When the mask blows away, it reveals Luke’s face. It was an illustration of Luke fighting the Dark Side from within, and I think we all have that. Spiritual battles are internal as well as external. Paul understood this. Paul mentions in Romans 7, these classic verses:
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do
what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. I want to do what
is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
(Romans 7:15, 19)
We all are in a daily spiritual struggle to follow Christ. Some days we do better than others. That’s why sometimes we envy those who do wrong. We need to keep on fighting the good fight knowing that God promises us, no weapon turned against us will succeed. Isaiah 54:17, if we are walking in faith, no weapon turned against us will succeed.
Now, David understood that. He understood that from an early age. You know David’s story. When David was a boy, a Philistine named Goliath was terrorizing the Israelites in the valley of Elah. Goliath was over nine feet tall, he had chainmail that weighed over 125 pounds, and he carried a spear that weighed over 15 pounds. Now, I needed to figure out, what does that feel like? So, I went and did some research. Did you know that a gallon of milk, a gallon of water, a gallon of liquid weighs a little over eight pounds; so, if you picked up two gallons of milk with one hand, that’s what his spear weighed. And he threw that around as a weapon. This is a big dude. This Philistine hero taunted the Israelites. Twice a day, morning and night, for forty days, all the Israelite soldiers were afraid to face him. They wanted to do what was right, but they didn’t do it. David comes along and says, “I’ll do it!” And regardless of chainmail, leg armor, a helmet, a javelin, a shield; none of it mattered. He knew God said, no weapon turned against you will succeed, and he succeeded.
On those days, when we are facing what feels like a nine-foot giant of a problem, remember Who’s on our side. Remember Who’s in our corner. If we are walking in faith, no weapon turned against us will succeed. That spiritual internal battle daily can be won if we walk in faith.
Okay. Now, as I said earlier, David was puzzled as to why it looked like the wicked seemed to prevail; and I’m sure that everyone here this morning had someone who popped into their mind when I said that. I know, because as some people left the first service, they began to tell me! “Why did he get that?” “Why did that happen to her?” It happened to me! Forty years ago, in high school, there was this young man – I won’t give you his full name – his first name was Mark. And Mark was the Hollywood movie stereotypical high school burnout. He didn’t do well in school, he didn’t do well at sports, all his friends were all that stoner crowd; all he did was smoke pot and cause trouble. After we graduated from high school – I don’t know how he graduated, but his father was the Superintendent of Schools… I’m just saying! – after we graduate, Massachusetts decided to install the lottery. Guess who won one of the very first lottery tickets. Mark. A million dollars. You telling me there weren’t a lot of people going, “Are you kidding me?! Of all the people, that guy??? Why do good things seem to happen to those people?”
It’s common. It happens all the time. Have you ever heard of Ray Kroc? Ray Kroc was a salesman, and an entrepreneur, and a businessman from the 50s and 60s, and he became very successful. Maybe you know the company that he was CEO of – a little burger joint called McDonald’s. Well, by the time Kroc died, he was worth over 600 million dollars. Now, that’s fine. I don’t begrudge anybody making money. That’s not my point. I would like to be there someday myself. In fact, all of us would, only a few of us are willing to admit it. Another movie I just recently went to see – Downton Abbey. Any Downton Abbey fans here? Well, Downton Abbey tells the story of the Lords and Ladies of England in the early 1900s, and the staff that works for them. As I walked out of the movie, is aid to Renée, “You know, it’s funny. We fought a revolution to break away from the idea that some people are just better than others – they’re royalty, they’re lords and ladies – yet every single person I know would love to be a lord or a lady of a house like that!” We all want to have butlers and maids – I don’t know anybody who wants to be a butler or a maid! So, it’s not about the money. I’m not complaining about the money.
What happened was I watched another movie – 2016, The Founder – I would highly recommend it. It’s a good movie. Tells the story of Ray Kroc. And in the movie, you discover Ray Kroc was a bit of a jerk wad! The way he treated the McDonald brothers, in many ways, I thought, was just shameful! He ended up with 600 million; they ended up with far less than that. He just wasn’t a nice man! And as I’m walking out of the movie theater, I’m thinking PSALM 37! Like David, I began to question – why do such jerk wads seem to get away with it? And it can lead to anger, and frustration. When people who are not being nice just seem to go free.
For instance, on a more personal note, I have been a pastor now for over 22 years. I cannot tell you how many times someone has said something about me that is either completely inaccurate or wholly untrue. It’s still happening. You see, so many church members are under the impression that pastors don’t hear things people say about them. They’re wrong! It all gets back to them, because people love to talk. And it can lead to anger, and frustration – especially because pastors don’t get to respond. “That wouldn’t be Christian!” or at the very least, pastoral. But I know I’m not alone. I’m betting a similar circumstance has faced you at your job, at school, at church; and it’s not fair, you say! Why do jerk wads seem to get away with it? That’s what David is struggling with – how to respond to things like that – here in psalm 37.
Now, I know the instinct is to respond the Chicago way, right? Remember Sean Connery in the Untouchables?
You said you wanted to know how to get Capone. Do you really want to get him? You see what I’m saying? What are you prepared to do?
Everything within the law.
And then what are you prepared to do? if you open the ball on these people, Mr. Nash, you must be prepared to go all the way; because they won’t give up the fight until one of you is dead.
I want to get Capone. I don’t know how to get him.
You want to get Capone? Here’s how you get him. He pulls a knife? You pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital? You send one of his to the morgue! That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get Capone!
Somebody brings a knife; you bring a gun! He puts one of yours in the hospital; you put one of his in the morgue! That’s the Chicago way! And that’s sometimes how we feel, is it not? We want to fight fire with fire. There’s just a small problem – there’s this guy, it’s kind of a big deal. He says, in Matthew 5:
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken away from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.
You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your
neighbor,’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those
who persecute you.”
(Matthew 5:37-41, 43)
That is definitely not the Chicago way. I know it doesn’t seem fair. Why Lord? Why can’t I respond in kind? Why can’t I do to people what they do to me?! It’s hard, isn’t it? I mean, we teach our children the golden rule all the time: “Do to others as you would like them to do to you!” It’s easy to say, isn’t it? It’s a little harder to do.
We justify our actions; we rationalize six ways to Sunday why we are responding in a certain way. “You just don’t understand!” Really? God doesn’t understand? I would love that. Someday I want to stand off to the side and watch as someone tells God He doesn’t understand. Just for kicks, I want to see what happens! God knows that anger and frustration and resentment makes for fertile soil, just right for seeds planted by the evil one. He also knows it’s not a long journey to the dark side. He dealt with Judas, right? God knows.
We try to defend it. “But I’m not Darth Vader! Not to everyone! Just to this one person in this one situation!” I’m sorry, that’s not how this works. When darkness creeps in, darkness takes over. It’s like a bacteria, right? We never say, “Yeah, I have the flu, but only in my left elbow. The rest of me is fine.” Or “Yeah, I caught a cold, but only on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.” Bacteria infects. Infection spreads unless it is treated. When darkness is allowed in, it festers, and we become more and more spiteful, more and more angry, more and more vindictive, and generally unpleasant day after day.
Think about it. Do you know (don’t raise your hand) a cranky old crone? You know, an aunt, an uncle, a church member who is just miserable all the time? They never have anything good to say, always whining and complaining. Just crabby and irritable 24/7. I do! I’ll bet you do too.
They weren’t born that way. At some point, they allowed the darkness in, and it festered. And if we allow it to fester, the same thing will happen to us. God knows that. That’s why He said to Peter in 1 Peter 3:
Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted,
and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults
when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what
God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. For the Scriptures
say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from
speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over
those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns
his face against those who do evil.”
(1 Peter 3:8b-12)
The Lord turns his face against those who do evil. The jerk wads. Vengeance is His, sayeth Him. David reminds us, Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. We should not spend any time getting frustrated at people or at situations over which we have no control. God does. He is in control. He’s in control of it all.
I mean, listen. If I was to ask everyone here today, “Do you trust God?” every single one of us would say, “Yes!” Then we need to trust Him! It may look like the wicked are succeeding – first of all, looks can be deceiving. Second, God is in control. Do we trust Him or not? Then relax! Trust Him with the Ray Krocs of the world; with the cranky old crones of the world; with those who make us angry and frustrate us. Don’t envy those who do wrong. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Because if we’re not careful, we will end up being jerk wads ourselves! It can happen, even when you’re not looking for it.
Now, there is an out. You know that story about the really old person who’s on their death bed, and you walk in to visit them, and they’re furiously reading the Bible. And you’re shocked. “I’ve never seen you read the Bible your whole life! What are you doing reading the Bible?” He says, “I’m looking for a loophole.” There is an out here. I don’t have to turn the other cheek. I don’t have to do unto others as I would have them do unto me, or love my enemies. Not unless I want to be a Christian. There are plenty of other religions all over the world. Good luck to you. But if I want to follow Jesus, then that’s my job. To turn the other cheek. To do to others what I would like them to do to me. To love my enemies, and pray for those who persecute me. And the fact is, I should do my job and let Him do His. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. I want the Lord to be open to my prayers. Would you pray with me?