Every so often, when I’m reading my Bible, a line will stop me in my tracks…and not in a good way.
I love the Psalms and spend a lot of time in them; I find them refreshing and challenging at the same time, a helpful tool especially when I can’t find the words to pray. But recently, a single line from Psalm 37 caused me to pause, to question and ultimately, to grieve and repent.
The line comes in the very first verse:
“…do not envy those who do wrong.” (verse 1)
Envy those who do wrong? What are you talking about, David? Of course I don’t envy those who do wrong. I’m a CHRISTIAN. I love God. I love His Word. I love talking about Him, writing about Him, doing works that further His kingdom. Why would I ever envy anyone who does wrong or “be agitated by one who prospers in his way” (verse 7)?
And then my eyes fluttered over to my bookshelf.
I am a writer of Christian fiction. While I love Christian fiction, it’s not all I read. I read across almost all genres (within limits, of course), and there are many secular books I truly enjoy–enjoy enough to give them a coveted spot on my book shelf (if you know me, you know I’m picky about books I actually keep). And as my eyes roved over my shelves, this verse kept returning to me and I realized…
I was guilty of envying those who do wrong, of being agitated by those who prosper in their way.
Pick up any newspaper, google any bestseller chart, and you’ll find pretty much nothing but secular fiction on the list of the “top” novels. While not all secular novels are bad, quite a few of those in top lists contain subject matter, language, and/or themes in direct opposition to God’s Truth. Unfortunately, most of the time, it’s these books–the ones that fit into our current culture’s narrative–that are the ones that get the most publicity, the biggest deals, and the most money. They are the ones that prosper. They are the ones that succeed.
And, as an author, I envy them.
For me, writing has never been about the money, but I’d be lying if I told you money isn’t a part of it. Of course I want to make some money to help support my family, to take care of my kids and give them a comfortable life. But being a writer is also about finding an audience–and you absolutely want to find the biggest audience you can find for your book. Writing is deeply personally and intensely draining; I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t fully believe the story I was putting forth had value and needed to be told. I want people to read my book, and not just because of the money it could bring in.
But, let’s face it: we live in a post-Christian United States. According to a Pew Research study, less than 40% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian; even fewer than that are active church goers and consumers of Christian media. As a Christian writer, my slice of the pie of potential readers is substantially lower than others. Although some Christian authors successfully navigate and appeal to audiences across both faith and secular markets, their stories are the exception rather than the rule. I’ve had to accept that I will more than likely never reach the readership level of, say, Stephen King or Dan Brown.
And, although I’m ashamed to admit it, there are times I envy them. I’m jealous of their success and popularity, the hype and publicity they achieve with each new book. Sometimes, I feel as if it would be better to cave in to societal pressure and write a secular book, one I know would appeal to a wider audience, simply for the prosperity it could bring.
There’s just one problem: I’m not secular. My faith is a huge part of my life; separating it from my job–one as intimate as writing–would be almost impossible for me. On top of that, I know writing Christian fiction is a gift from God; He has given me this opportunity to partner with Him in a unique way to further His kingdom, proclaim the gospel, and reach people for Jesus. Whenever that sinful, jealous nature begins to rear its head, I find comfort (once again) in His never-changing Word:
“The little that the righteous person has is better than the abundance of many wicked people…the Lord watches over the blameless all their days, and their inheritance will last forever. They will not be disgraced in times of adversity; they will be satisfied in days of hunger. But the wicked will perish; the Lord’s enemies, like the glory of the pastures, will fade away–they will fade away like smoke.” (verses 16-20)
What about you? Are there areas where you “envy those who do wrong” because of the prosperity they seem to achieve by bowing to the world’s whims? I’m guessing we all have those weak spots within our sinful hearts. In these moments of temptation, I have to return to Scripture time and time again to remind myself of the true nature of wealth–the salvation and joy found in the arms of Jesus.
I love each and every single one of my readers; I am honored to share God’s love with them. Writing Christian fiction is a joy and a distinctive ministry to which God has entrusted me. I am truly blessed. But, more than that, how fortunate I am to be a part of His kingdom, both on earth and–one day–in heaven.
So, instead of selfish envy of secular success, let us “trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. Take delight in the Lord…commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday.” (verse 3-6)
Because nothing–not even a spot atop the bestseller list–could be better than that.