17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, 18 lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.
19 Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, 20 for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Pr 24:17–20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
There are bad people in the world. There are also people in the world who appear to be good, but do not like you because of your ways. They do not like you because you follow Christ. They are out to get you and they may succeed.
You may not notice it every day. But there are more and more people in the world hostile to the things and people of Christ. As the Lord Jesus himself said, the world does not like those who belong to Christ.
With the rise of the internet and celebrity culture, some of those people will have spectacular falls from grace. And we might smile. And we might cheer. And we might pile on. There, but by the grace of God, go us.
This is a difficult balancing act in the world in which we live. Our worldly views, partisan views, or communal views sometimes see people against us and we root for their downfall or they just collapse and we want to cheer. Perhaps instead of cheering, we should praise God for saving us and remember as well that there is someone’s spouse or sibling or child who lies in ruin.
I struggle with this personally in my profession. I see people who collapse, whose sins are found out, and who I know would love to see my own undoing and the undoing of those I care about. We see this happening on the news — ego builds and ego crushes. Take the Greek tragedy of Brian Williams of NBC News. His ego built him up and it caused his collapse. For all one may think of Brian Williams, he in his job did to others what is now happening to him. My natural reaction is to cheer, along with my partisan friends. But then I feel guilty for enjoying the wreckage because it is not just a the wreckage of a career, but the wreckage of a man, a father, a husband, and his career.
I must remember these words of scripture. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls.” But this does not mean we cannot pray that God will work it out. And this does not mean that we should not work to stop those who would be against us. This does not mean we should surrender and give up the fight. And this does not mean we should not rejoice, just rejoice in God’s protection, not in someone else’s destruction. But in all of this it does not excuse the necessity of our praying for them.
It isn’t easy, particularly today with 24/7 news, celebrity, the internet, and more. We want to cheer the spectacle.
What I have arrived at is this — don’t dance on the grave of another. Rejoice in the work God has done to help you, not in the downfall of another. If you are dancing on the grave of another, you will be distracted from those who wish to dance on your grave.
Rejoice in the Lord. “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” (Pr. 24:27)