“It is good for Christians to rejoice. We have much in which to rejoice. Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
However, there are some things in which we should not rejoice. We should not rejoice in things which are contrary to God’s will. Our affections need to be brought into line with God’s word. Thomas Warren has remarked, “The true view… involves the recognition that there is a place for the senses (the physical side of man), there is a place for feelings (the emotions, the volitional side of man), and there is a place for the rational side of man (the use of reason)… But all of these things must be used in connection with the supernatural revelation from God to man (the Bible)” (Warren, Logic and The Bible, p.39). Let us notice some things in which we should not rejoice…
1. We should not rejoice when our enemies fall.
The proverb reads, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles” (Proverbs 24:17). Rejoicing over the destruction of one’s personal enemy is not righteous behavior (Job 31:29). We are to show kindness to our personal enemies (Proverbs 25:21 cf. Romans 12:19-21; Leviticus 19:7-8, cf. Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:14).
However, there are times when rejoicing is appropriate. (a) It is appropriate to rejoice when justice is done (Proverbs 11:10). Hence, the rejoicing of Proverbs 24:17 is, it seems, rejoicing for events outside of justice. (b) It is appropriate to rejoice in the justice of God (Exodus 15; Deuteronomy 32:43). (c) It may be appropriate to rejoice in the battlefield victory over national enemies (Psalm 58:10 cf. 68:22-23). Tom Wacaster comments, “There is nothing in the verse that might suggest a personal vendetta on the part of the Psalmist. God’s saints have, through the centuries, sought Divine judgment upon the wicked. The fact that the ‘righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance’ is no indication the derived pleasure from punishment (or suffering B.H.) inflicted upon evil doers” (Wacaster, The Songs And Devotions of David, Vol. 3, p. 123). This is about justice and not sadism.
Proverbs 24:17 is teaching that we should not be filled with hatred, so filled that – we enjoy hearing about the misfortunes of a personal enemy. For example: I should not be rejoicing to hear that my personal enemy is dying of cancer.
2. We should not primarily rejoice in our deeds and accomplishments in the Lord.
Luke recorded, “Then the seventy returned with joy, saying ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’ And He said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20).
Their deeds had value. Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:17). J.W. McGarvey comments, “In their successes Jesus saw Satan falling from lofty heights with the swiftness of lightning” (McGarvey, The Fourfold Gospel, p. 473). Burt Groves comments, “As they commanded Satan’s unclean spirits Jesus saw Satan in defeat… surely as the gospel is preached today and sinners converts to Christ, Satan continues to suffer loss” (Groves, The Gospel According to Luke Commentary, p. 114).
However, there was something greater; and it’s in this that they were to rejoice. J.W. McGarvey comments, “Your joy in visible and temporal success, and in the subjection to you of the powers of evil, is not to be compared to the joy that you have the prospect of heaven” (McGarvey, 474). Burt Groves comments, “Personally they were to be blessed for more in heaven than in serving Jesus in that miraculous work on earth” (Groves, p. 114).
Another thought: It is possible that this is an implicit warning. It is possible to do many great things, on this earth, for the Lord, and still be lost (see Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 13:1-3). Think about Judas. Maintaining a proper relationship with God is even more important, then the accomplishments in which we may be tempted to boast.
3. We should not rejoice in iniquity.
Love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Moreover, those without Biblical love will, spiritually speaking, profit nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Some people enjoy sin. The are entertained by it. They enjoy engaging in it, and hearing about it (Psalm 50:18; Proverbs 2:14; Romans 1:32; Ephesians 5:3-4). Alas, sometimes Christians behave no differently, or with little difference, than the world in their morals.
However, God’s people are to be different. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Peter said, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against your soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evil doers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12). May we dare to be different in bold colors and not in pale pastels.
4. We should rejoice in our own work, and not in another’s.
Paul wrote, “But let one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load” (Galatians 6:4-5).
The context concerns envious comparisons (Galatians 5:26 cf. 6:1-5). J.W. McGarvey comments, “But let each prove his own work instead of criticizing and judging the work of others, and then shall he have glory in himself alone, and not because he seems superior to his neighbor by comparison of his work with that of his neighbor. And it behooves us to be concerned about our own work, and to thus test it, for each one of us shall bear his own load of duty and accountability, for which alone he shall be called to answer in the judgment (McGarvey, – Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, p. 285). One does not become a saint by another’s sin, or shortcoming; neither, does one live the Christian life through another. We each will be held responsible for self.
5. We should not rejoice if we should mourn.
James wrote, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:8-10).
Notice how these people are described. They are sinners. They are sinners in behavior (hands = physical behavior). They are sinners in their thoughts (double-minded = not fully devoted to God). They are not humble.
A change was needed. Guy N. Woods comments, “Those whose hands are stained with sin, and whose lives are polluted by the corruption of the world, are in no position to laugh and experience joy. Instead, they ought to mourn over their waywardness, and fall at the feet of Jesus for mercy” (Woods, A Commentary on the Epistle of James, p. 233). “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
How is your life before God? Are you humbly serving Him?