A REWARDING LIFE

The story of Samson is a window into the nature of how God’s purposes and callings are still accomplished despite the impact of sin in a person’s life. Samson’s background is amazing. His was a miracle birth, as he was born to a woman who was unable to have children, but God intervened. Then the angel of the Lord appears to her and tells her she will have a son, and that he is to be dedicated to God and will begin the process of delivering his people from the hands of their enemies.

            Samson has an amazing destiny before him, but he struggles with obeying God’s word. He defiles his Nazirite vow by taking honey from the dead carcass of a lion that he had killed earlier. He then decides to marry outside of the household of faith, which ultimately leads to disastrous results. In the book of Judges we read of the growing hostility between Samson and the Philistines. In chapter 16, we find Samson spending the night with a prostitute in the Philistine controlled city of Gaza. Then we find that Samson meets his match because he falls in love with Delilah, who discovers his secret source of strength. Samson’s undisciplined and unrestrained sexual behavior not only entrapped him, but led to being imprisoned, blinded, and shamed but in the end destroys not only his enemies, but the enemies of God’s people. God used Samson to start the process of delivering his people from oppression despite Samson’s sin.

            One of the great mistakes in life is to assume that our sin will go unnoticed, unheeded or unpunished. It may seem both individually and as a culture that how we live may not have immediate ramifications, but there are ultimate consequences for sin. Sin separates us from God. It not only impacts our life, but the lives of others in negative ways. Sin always diminishes us.

            Proverbs argues for the need for wisdom, which is defined as having, ‘the fear of God in our lives.’ In other words there must be an acknowledgment of God’s rightful place in our lives and the need to live according to His ways. This is in contrast to living unwisely or foolishly. Yet, in Proverbs we also have synonyms for these ideas. To live wisely means to live righteously. Righteousness simply means we do what is right in the eyes of God. We are to live in obedience to God’s word which reveals to us God’s character and his ways. To live in folly is to live in wickedness or disobedience to God. It is a state of rebellion. How we live determines outcomes in our lives. O.T. scholar, David Hubbard points out: “The Lord has rigged the universe for righteousness. To go His way prompts reward. To go against it leads to failure.”[i]

            Proverbs are designed to reinforce this concept. Proverbs are short, pithy statements that paint a word picture often by contrasts. It also tries to describe the effects of either living righteously or wickedly by naming simple cause and effect expressions. One caution we need to make in understanding Proverbs is the need to be careful because Proverbs make sweeping generalizations and simplifications. O.T. scholars agree and warn us against reading these as promises. David Hubbard reminds us: “Other biblical writings like Job, Ecclesiastes, Psalms 49 and 73 recognized this. They play a welcome role in the Bible by telling us that God understands how complex life seems when he chooses not to follow the formulae of Proverbs. But most of us need to learn to reckon with the rules before we ponder the exceptions.”[ii]

            What is he talking about? That there are times in this life that we find that the general principle that righteousness is rewarded, and sinfulness is not, may not play out immediately, but we know that for the most part, doing the right thing is ultimately the best course of action.

            There are a number of Proverbs here in chapter ten that bring the idea of the effect that righteousness has in a person’s life. A righteous life impacts not only our lives but also those we are in relationship with and even beyond.

THE EFFECTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

            It was John Donne who wrote that ‘no man is an island.’ In other words we are all interconnect and both impact and are impacted by the lives of people around us. We are realizing that what happens in other parts of our world can have powerful effects on us. I think this virus is a case in point. What began in China has touched the entire world. This is not just true in the spread of disease, but also ideas and lifestyles. How we live impacts and affects the lives of others, both in a positive or negative way. 

The effects of righteousness on our families.

            Proverbs here describes how living a righteous life impacts our family, in this case our parents. Let’s remember that this book was written as a practical guide especially for younger people to learn what it means to be a wise person, or a righteous person. One of the most fundamental laws in both modern and ancient societies is the need to honor parents and those in authority.

            “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).” This is the first command with a promise to it. In the Deuteronomy text found in Deut. 5:16, he adds not only will they live long in the land, but that it will go well with them.

            Here we see the Hebrew writers begin their actual proverbial instructions. “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother (Proverbs 10:1).”

            This is an antithetical proverb where we see a contrast being expressed. Throughout the first nine chapters we have seen the difference between wisdom and folly. Biblical wisdom is expressed by our relationship with God, in that we show deference and obedience as a mark of our deep awe and respect toward Him, but the foolish in contrast rebel against God and his ways. Bruce Waltke describes the fool “…as a person who is morally deficient which prompts irrational behavior. …they delight in twisting values that benefit the community.”[iii] Fools are self-assertive and trust in everything but God.

            The result of wisdom or being righteous is that it brings joy into the lives of those we love. In contrast, folly creates grief for those who are invested in our lives, particularly our parents, but this can also be true of our spouse and children. Though there are some exceptions to this rule, as Tremper Longman III points out that “It clearly assumes that the parents are wise themselves. If the parents were fools, then their joy would be elicited by their child’s evil, unrighteous behavior. Wise parents, in contrast, would be encouraged by the righteous behavior of their son but chagrined at this folly.”[iv]

            Though I would point out that godly, righteous children can also bring joy to the heart of parents who may not be believers but who see the value of living a moral life.

            Another group that is benefitted by the righteous are those whose lives have been nourished by them.

            “The lips of the righteous nourish many; but fools die for lack of sense (Proverbs 10:21).”

            When we are speaking of the lips here, what is meant is that it is the speech or words that come from the righteous person. Wise or righteous people have a way of affirming, encouraging, inspiring, challenging, correcting and basically building up others. The word ‘nourished’ that is translated here could as easily be translated by the word, ‘shepherd.’ These people are directing others through their words. The fact that they do this for many speaks to the value wise or righteous people have on the community in which they live. They are an asset.

            This is in contrast to the fool who here is described as ‘lacking sense,’ and could be translated, ‘lacking heart.’ The core issue in Proverbs is one of heart. One of the important ideas that is being conveyed throughout the book of Proverbs is the issue of the heart, because it is seen as the seat of choice. God is giving us choice and we need to make the right choices which are always coming from the essence of who we are, namely from our heart.

            Notice how Proverbs 10:8 speaks to the issue of our hearts. “The wise in heart accept commands [they are teachable, open to instruction], but a chattering fool comes to ruin.” This chattering is not asking questions but rather talking back in defiance to authority. Ultimately this brings ruin to a person, because they are unwilling to listen to warning and instruction. This unwillingness to be instructed comes at their own expense. They suffer for not heeding instruction and warnings.

            The words of the righteous express wisdom.  

            “From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced (Proverbs 10:31).”

            The word for fruit here speaks of what wisdom produces. It promotes life, which in the biblical sense is speaking of a having a right relationship with God. The result of applying right words is that it causes growth and spiritual prosperity to occur. In contrast what we discover is that the perverse or ‘twisted’ tongue will be silenced or ‘cut off.’ We must always remember that words reflect the thoughts of the person. Perverse and twisted words come from an unhealthy soul. What does it mean to be silenced or cut off? Tremper Longman III points out: “To be cut off is used throughout the Hebrew Bible [O. T.] to refer to punishment for unethical and uncovenantal behavior.”[v]

            The effects of the righteous on the community.

            When we speak of community, we are talking about community in its broadest sense. Our church family is a community, but then we have the place where we live, a town or a city which is also a description of a community.

            “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.

            Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed (Proverbs 11:10-11).” What is being stated is simple. Righteousness empowers and establishes communities, but wickedness destroys community. The prospering here may mean that they are in positions of leadership and are exerting their wisdom which in turn benefits the community. Dr. Longman points out: “They may thus occupy government positions where their righteous behavior would lead to social justice and the alleviation of oppression. On the other hand, the wicked are defined by their practice of such things as injustice and oppression.”[vi] While we have seen how righteousness in one’s life benefits others, it also impacts our own life.

THE EFFECTS OF A RIGHTEOUS LIFE ON OUR LIVES.

            Walking wisely as outlined in the book of Proverbs has so many personal benefits. It would be unwise to ignore them.

            Here I will restrict myself to six things that happens to us as we walk with God, which in Proverbs means to walk or live wisely or being righteous.  

            First, we can be confident that God will provide for our needs.

            Bruce Waltke points out that just as the first part of Proverbs warns against joining the gang for ill-gotten gain, and the end is death to those who seek to find their lives at the expense of others, here we see that God’s plan is never at the expense of others. “Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death. The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked (Proverbs 10:2-3).”

            Do the right thing toward others and in the end you benefit. Waltke describes it this way: “Paradoxically, the wicked use others to store up physical assets for themselves and lose their lives, and the righteous use their resources to serve others and store up life for themselves.”[vii]

            Jesus has this in mind when he challenges us in Matthew 6 about not worrying over the necessities of life. We need to hear this word right now in this time of uncertainty. Most are concerned about what tomorrow holds in light of the current state of affairs both medically and economically but let me remind all of us of what Jesus said.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own Matthew 6:31-34).                       

            Jesus is saying simply, don’t worry, but he is also not advocating laziness nor indifference. As we are about to see in the next two proverbs, we find that one of the qualities of a righteous person is that they are diligent. “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son (Proverbs 10:4-5).”

            The translation could literally read, a slack palm makes poverty while a determined or extended hand makes for wealth. Dr. Waltke cautions us that this is only one aspect or reward of the righteous. “They teach that industry, contentment, thrift, and forethought will produce wealth and protect against poverty…but this must be held in tension with the counterproverbs that assume that the righteous may be temporarily poor and the wicked rich due to the tyranny of the latter. [However] In a future that outlasts death the labor of the righteous will be rewarded.”[viii]

            Simply put we do what we can and then trust that God will take care of us as His children. In the end God will reward us for doing what is right.

            Second, we can be confident that whoever walks in integrity will walk securely.

            “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out (Proverbs 10:9.” Here we see the value of honesty in contrast to dishonesty. The prophet, Isaiah was writing to challenge the people of his hour who had deviated from the path or way that they should live. We need to be reminded that God is aware of our behavior. “The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless; ‘Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire [A characterization of who God is]? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning? Isaiah 33:14).’”

Now Isaiah is talking about the kind of people who can walk with God and then describes the result of that kind of life. “Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil- they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them (Isaiah 33:15-16).”

            Third, righteousness gives us instruction on how to live.

            “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray Proverbs 10:17).” When we do as God instructs, we not only find the right path and way to live, but we become a model and an example to others. We don’t have to be at a loss on how we should live. God’s word will give us the clarity we need to understand and then do the right thing.

            “For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life (Proverbs 6:23).”

            So what happens when we walk in obedience to God’s words?

            Fourth, the desires of the righteous are granted.

            “What the wicked dread will overtake them; what the righteous desire will be granted (Proverbs 10:24).” Why are the desires of the righteous granted? What does this really mean? It means that when a person becomes a follower of God. they experience a transformation of heart. They begins a change in desires that begin to conform to what is healthy and holy. The apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians that “… it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).”

            God desires to bring joy into our lives. “The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing (Proverbs 10:28).” The first part of Proverbs 10:24 states that what the wicked dread will overtake them. While on the one hand desired blessings and joy flow into the life of the righteous person, the outcome of wicked behavior is pain. David Hubbard reminds us that “In Proverbs, dynamistic retribution is a much more common means of reward than forensic [legal punishment]. Dynamistic means that a crime inevitably carries the power to affect its own consequences. We live in a world, said the wise, when every cause achieves its appropriate effect. What is true in architecture-how well you build determines how well you live-and agriculture-what you sow is what you reap- is true in the realms of business, politics, social welfare, and personal morality. Like a boomerang, what you hurl at life circles back to hit you, for woe or weal [bad or good].”[ix]

            The issue of desire once again is presented in Proverbs 11:6. Desire is a key to why we behave the way we do. “The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires (Proverbs 11:6).” Is not this the very nature of addictions? The unfaithful are trapped by evil desires, but the righteous person is delivered from those snares.

            Fifth, righteousness brings stability in times of crisis.

            In times of crisis what sustains us is that we have been walking in wisdom or righteousness. It breeds confidence that God will see us through. Righteousness is a refuge especially during difficult times. “When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever (Proverbs 10:25).” Two other proverbs that express the same idea are found a few verses later. “The way of the LORD is a refuge for the blameless, but it is the ruin of those who do evil. The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land (Proverbs 10:29-30).”

            Here we have the allusion to the O.T. covenant. Disobedience would cause exile from the land, and as we know, it did. So, how does that apply to us? The idea was that exile speaks of being removed from God’s presence. In the O.T. the concept was one of place. Jerusalem and ultimately the temple were considered holy because of one’s proximity to the presence of God. What is significant is that the N.T. speaks of accessibility to God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Once we accept the person and work of Jesus on our behalf we are then filled with God’s presence. However, disobedience causes a barrier between us and God. This barrier is caused by our sinful choices. There is an amazing confidence when we are living right.   

Finally, righteousness delivers from trouble.

            How many recognize that many of our problems are self-induced because of our sinful behavior? But having said that we also know that in life we will have trouble. Jesus said that in the world we would experience tribulations (troubles), but we should be of good cheer, because Jesus has overcome this world and will help navigate our lives through this life. Ultimately, we will be delivered from all our troubles.

“The righteous person is rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead (Proverbs 11:8).” Here is a proverb that is teaching us that what was designed to destroy us passes over us. A couple of biblical examples come to mind. When the wicked set traps for the righteous it often boomerangs back to themselves. Haman, hangs on the gallows that he has built for Mordecai, while the lions devour the enemies of Daniel after he had been rescued from the lion’s den by God’s angels.

So what difference does righteous make?

            We could easily continue and discuss the effects of righteousness, but the point is God rewards righteousness. Righteousness or walking in wisdom is not only a great blessing for each of us but it brings blessings to those around us. What strikes me about Proverbs is the stark contrast between two ways of living. We are all moving in one of two directions. We are either walking in righteousness or wisdom, which simply means we are walking towards God, or we are walking away from God, which is the way of folly and wickedness. The benefit of walking with God is evident not only in our lives, but it’s impact on the lives of others. What kind of life are you leading? What kind of a legacy will you leave behind?        

            “The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the reputation of the wicked will rot (Proverbs 10:7-New English Translation).”

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[i] David A. Hubbard, Proverb, The Communicator’s Commentary, (Dallas, TX: Word Books, Publisher, 1989), 141.

[ii] Ibid, 152.

[iii] Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 20040), 112.

[iv] Tremper Longman III, Proverbs, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 229.

[v] Ibid, 244.

[vi] Ibid, 254.

[vii] Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15, 453.

[viii] Ibid, 454.

[ix] David A. Hubbard, Proverb, 150.

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