NewLife Anglican / Pastors Blog / The Fire of Zeal (Proverbs 23)

The Fire of Zeal (Proverbs 23)


What grabs you? What gets the best of you? Where do you find yourself freely giving energy and attention – almost effortlessly? The answer is whatever ‘floats your boat’ – a hobby, a relationship, a place, an area of study, a favourite spot to fish.

The line from the Proverbs in chapter 23 that caught my eye today goes like this: 

“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.”

(Proverbs 23:17 NIV11)

It’s zeal for the Lord that I wanted to focus on but there’s half a line before it that we need to consider first. That bit about envying sinners. How are the two connected? 

I think that the sidelong – (longing?) grace that we give to those who don’t fear the Lord is the antithesis of zeal. Whilst we’re wishing that we could be like those who are living a sinful lifestyle we are very unlikely to be passionately serving our Lord. 

This makes a lot of sense. Why would I worship God when I’m into the lifestyle of those who despise Him? They don’t, I’m aspiring to be like them, and so.. well, it’s not rocket science is it?

But why do we envy them? 

Perhaps it’s more fun. Perhaps it’s more sensual. Perhaps it just appeals to our sense of greed.. or maybe a general weariness of seeking to put others first. They get away with (we think) and they look happy.. I’d like just a bit of that too.. 

When speaking of the seductress (metaphorically – and practically) an image of sin we read earlier in Proverbs this exchange:

““Let all who are simple come to my house!” To those who have no sense she says,

 “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!”

 But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.”

(Proverbs 9:16–18 NIV11)

Sweet and delicious it appears.. but there is death there too. Just like the Garden. In contrast the very next line in Proverbs 23 that exhorts us to value zeal for the Lord says this,

“There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”

(Proverbs 23:18 NIV11)

Life and hope live at the other end of zeal. Choose God. Choose life. It’s a pretty simple equation. 

Don’t fix your eyes on those who are going to death but stoke the fires of love for your Lord who will lead us to life eternal through His Son. 

Remember what’s great about God. Recall His goodness and faithfulness. Remember that He saved you! It might take a little more energy than packing the boat to go fishing but if you’ll apply some focus and attention here – you’ll remember that the Lord is indeed worthy of our love and the hope we have is infinitely more valuable than any fleeting pleasure.

“As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,

so may the light of your presence, O God,

set our hearts on fire with love for you;

now and for ever.


Grace and peace,


#newlifeisfoundhere #readingfornewlife #wisdom #proverbs

About The Author

New Life Anglican is a group of Christians who live in and around Oran Park, starting a brand new church with the express goal of seeing new life come to every home in Oran Park and the growing South West.