I like Psalm One, especially with the clear progression of verbs found in the RSV …walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands… nor sits. One imagines a young person listening first to some bad advice, then finding himself loitering with the wrong crowd, then in time, becoming fully stuck in an addiction, financial folly, or illicit lifestyle. Wickedness is an active, dynamic thing, until it is not. It is easier to steer a life away from tragedy while it is yet unformed. Be careful the rut you choose, you’ll be in it a long, long, time.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about goal-setting and the role that visioning should play in our personal lives. It seems to me that the wicked are much more intentional about marketing long range self-help than are the compassionate. The wicked begin their sermons with, “You can do whatever you fix your mind to do.” Jesus began his sermon, “blessed are…” He focused on forming the generous heart in his disciples first, before he told them that the goal was to make disciples of the whole world. He began with inner peace and rooted spirituality (taught people how to sit), then branched out to spreading salvation/healing (walk to all nations).
The wicked are always going somewhere and asking you to join them. They go to Arizona and build a wall. They go into the city to buy drugs. They go to Wall Street and create Ponzi schemes and real-estate bubbles. They go to the Midwest and buy family farms, reseeding the earth with GMO corn and Round-up resistant soy. Once they have convinced you that you are in control of your own happiness, they ask you to stand with them so that they can grow richer and more famous. Eventually, their subjects are reduced to unthinking zombies — people who sit together because misery loves company.
Not so the righteous! Psalm one gives us the image of a fertile tree as the ultimate good life. Jesus builds on this in his parable of the mustard seed that grows to become a useful fixture in the community (Mark 4:30-32). We still need to think about goals and visions for our lives, but that needs to be done in the context of discerning the spiritual gifts and resources that God has already placed in our lives. We root in order to grow.