REWARDS FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS (1)
A Meditation on Proverbs 3:33, 10:6 and others
The introduction to the book of Proverbs makes it clear that one of its main purposes is to instruct God’s people “in righteousness” (Pro. 1:3). For clarification, the righteousness addressed here is not objective or positional righteousness, but practical righteousness. In other words, we’re dealing sanctification, and not justification (although this is not to suggest that the two are unrelated).
For starters, we need to remember that “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice” (21:3). Because we aren’t doing righteousness, our country is looking a little more like Sodom and Gomorrah every day. And don’t forget about the judgment that fell upon those two cities. Proverbs says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Righteousness exalts a nation, not tolerance, not diversity, not the power of the military, not the strength of the economy, not health care, and not even lower prices at the gas pump. Democrats and Republicans alike must see that the need of the hour is righteousness—as God defines it.
Let’s not be ambiguous as to how righteousness will flourish in this nation, and in others. I fear that even Christian parents don’t grasp what is needed to produce righteous living in our young people. For example, it’s obvious that sexual immorality among teenagers is an epidemic. The solution advocated by those on the left, like Planned Parenthood, is the liberal distribution of prophylactics, and providing abortion on demand—without parental consent. Those on the right react, and say we need to teach abstinence. When an abstinence program is welcomed by a school, we jump up and down, and shout, “Hip, hip hooray!” While teaching abstinence is certainly better than tossing out condoms, like candy at a 4th of July parade, we need to ask an honest, pragmatic question: “Does it really work?” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it doesn’t. A recent study revealed that of 12,000 teenagers who took pledges to wait until marriage to have sex, 80% had sex outside of marriage in the next 7 years.
Colossians 2:21-23 should have taught us a long time ago that this approach wouldn’t go very far: “‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’…These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” It’s going to take more than bump sticker slogans, like “Just Say No” to change the behavior of this promiscuous generation, because it is of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
So what will bring righteousness to our nation, and to our young people? NOTHING…except the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17). What produces righteousness is not moralism or human effort, but the grace of God. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Tit. 2:11-12). It’s idealistic foolishness to think that people will “Just Say No” apart from the grace of God.
One of the purposes of the Law, with commands like “Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, etc.,” was to show us our sin, and our inability to “Just Say No.” The Law highlights our utter dependence upon the grace of God to do righteousness. Now “sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). And contrary to what some think, grace doesn’t nullify the law (for example the Ten Commandments still apply), rather it empowers us to fulfill the law. Righteousness is so important to God that he sent his one and only to die, in order to make it a reality in our lives. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24).
Now I’d like us to consider some rewards for righteousness that Proverbs mentions. And of course these Proverbs are designed to en-courage and promote righteousness among the people of God. First there is a reference to general blessings. “The LORD’S curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous” (Pro. 3:33). “Blessings are on the head on the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence” (10:6). Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will not escape the blessings of God.
REWARDS FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS (2)
A Meditation on Proverbs 3:33, 10:6 and others
As God leads us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Ps. 23:3), what specific blessings can his righteous disciples look forward to receiving? Consider eleven examples from Proverbs.
First, God will give the righteous treasures without trouble. “In the house of the righteous there is much treasure, but trouble befalls the income of the wicked” (Pro. 15:6). This is not a guarantee that you will be rich, but it is a promise that your income, whether great or small, will not be plagued by trouble. The wicked have no assurance that their paychecks will not be accompanied by trouble.
Second, the righteous will experience answered prayers and closeness with God. “The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous” (15:29). Taking into account the Hebrew parallelism in this verse, we see that God answers the prayers of the righteous because he is especially close to them. It is the nearness of God that results in answered prayer, and the nearness of God was a reward of being righteous. Therefore, as James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power.”
Third, the righteous are endowed with boldness or fearlessness. “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Pro. 28:1). The simple fact is that much fear, anxiety and paranoia, which causes people to live constantly looking over their shoulder, is often the result of sin, while boldness is the reward of the righteous. We could also state it this way: Righteousness results in stability. “The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not dwell in the land” (10:30).
Fourth, the righteous speak words of wisdom. They know what to say at the appropriate time. “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse” (10:31-32). This is just an application of Jesus’ words, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).
Fifth, the righteous have the ability to bounce back from calamity. “Lie not in wait as a wicked man against the dwelling of the righteous; do no violence to his home; for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity” (Pro. 24:15-16). In the vernacular of the day, “You can’t keep a good man down.”
Sixth, the righteous are blessed with increasing wisdom. “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning” (9:9). Righteousness leads to wisdom, and wickedness leads to stupidity. I’m not kidding. Romans 1:21-22 makes it clear that a failure to glorify God and thank him has an adverse effect upon one’s thinking: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.”
Seventh, the righteous are given an enduring reputation. “The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot” (10:7). “For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever” (Ps. 112:6).
Eighth, the righteous are filled with joy. “An evil man is en-snared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices” (Pro. 29:6). If we follow the Hebrew parallelism again, we see that sin leads to sorrow, while holiness leads to happiness. This is why repentance is so important; it restores to us the joy of our salvation that was forfeited by our sin (Ps. 51:12).
Ninth, another reward for righteousness is satisfaction. “The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want” (Pro. 13:25). In applying this verse we don’t need to limit the appetite to one’s hunger for food. “What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted” (10:24). This explains why the righteous are satisfied: God has given them the desire of their heart.
Tenth, “The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead” (11:8). This promise also extends to future generations: “Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished, but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered” (11:21).
Finally, the righteous finds peace at death. “The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing, but the righteous finds refuge in his death” (14:32). Even when the righteous are on their death bed God’s blessing is still upon them.
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