I heard a sermon on Psalm 73 today. As a whole, the sermon did an excellent job of unpacking both the direct meaning and the emotive message of the Psalm (as an aside I think that non-religious folk really miss out by not getting a lecture style presentation once a week to mull over). Specifically though I was struck by the basic argument the psalmist (a fellow named Asaph) makes. He begins noticing that the wicked have all the really nice stuff in life. He mentions that this worried him, made him envious and ultimately almost caused him to abandon God; after all, if the wicked get all the good stuff, what is the point in being good? Then he catches himself and laughs at himself. He says that when he entered the sanctuary all his doubts vanished. He then spends a bit of time chiding himself for being foolish and then gives his answer to the original problem: "the presence of God is my good."
That's it. It doesn't end with "surely the blessed with prosper and their vineyards will produce much and they will ultimately point and laugh at the wicked". He just says he realized that compared to all the good things life has to offer (and he doesn't really question that they are good things), being the the presence of God outshines everything. Coming from my background, this answer reminds me of two authors. Aristotle spoke of eudaimonia as the highest good for man; the good which would outweigh all other goods. And C.S. Lewis wrote extensively about joy or sehnsucht as that thing that we are made for; the experience which breaks through our ordinary lives and gives us that brief hint of being complete, of coming home to a home we have not yet seen. It seems as though Asaph decided that the point in following God, is having a relationship with God. It doesn't matter to him how much nice stuff the wicked can get, none of if can bear a candle to being in the presence of God.
I don't think that most religious people today would have said this (I think many do believe it). We usually hear something like "If you just take the long view, the wicked will be punished and the righteous who love God will have pleasures forever". Why not say "taste and see that the Lord is good". Or, to quote one more great thinker "Try it, try it and you may, try it and you may I say!". Could it be that we don't trust God to be that rapturous? Do we not trust God to be Joy?