Righteousness (Proverbs 10)

The Proverbs offer meditation on God’s law. Wisdom is therefore about how we live in God’s world under his rule and reign in relationship with him. Wisdom is practical righteousness. So, here in Proverbs 10, we see a set of contrasts that compare wisdom and foolishness, righteousness and unrighteousness.

Here are some of the examples of wisdom that we find in this chapter.

  • The wise and righteous son brings joy to his parents – he honours his father and mother whilst the foolish son brings them sorrow (v1)
  • Ill-gotten gains fail to bring true benefit whilst righteousness brings eternal benefit (v2)
  • God provides for the righteous whilst he acts with justice to prevent the evil cravings of the wicked from running wild (v3).
  • Righteousness is concerned with hard work and diligence (v4 -5).
  • Righteousness leads to blessings, to joy and happiness whilst unrighteousness is the cause of harm and distress (v6)
  • Once again, righteousness has lasting impact seen in the way that a righteous person’s name is remembered (v7)
  • Righteousness is about the wisdom to stop and listen to what God says (v8)
  • Righteousness is about walking in God’s will finding direction and meaning in life. Unrighteousness is about being lost (v9)

Forgotten promises?

One of the things that we discover as we read Proverbs is that these words are not meant to be treated as simplistic promises. They are general truths and they meant to be chewed over as we carefully apply them to our situations. One of the things that the book of Ecclesiastes does is by mediating further guard us against such naïve optimism.  For example, whilst Proverbs 7:10 states that the righteous wise are remembered and wicked fools forgotten, the preacher observes that often the wise and good are forgotten quickly (Ecclesiastes 9:13-16). 

Of course, the key to understanding these proverbs includes applying them through the New Testament and through Christ. It is better for your name to be forgotten to history but remembered in eternity because it is written in the book of life than for you to hear Jesus say “Sinner, I never knew you.”

This helps us as we focus in on specific proverbs.

Hungry

Take a look at verse 3

“The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,
    but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.”

The general truth here is that God is concerned for justice. He provides for and protects his people.  It is reflected in more modern proverbial slogans such as “crime doesn’t pay.”  As a general principle, this can be applied by thinking about how we build communities based on God’s wisdom.  A country that does this will be one where goodness is rewarded, where those in need are provided for and where justice is done. A church where this is applied will be one with clear safe-guarding policies, where church discipline is exercised and where the church family show genuine love to one another.

Righteousness however does not always guarantee this. We know that sadly, unrighteous bullies and abusers have been able to infiltrate churches leaving a trail of deeply damaged lives.  Were Smyth and Fletcher thwarted? Well eventually the truth came out but it seems that it was too late by then and Smyth was never brought to account.  Meanwhile on the converse, people who seek to obey God’s word often watch on whilst those who ignore it seem to prosper whilst they suffer.  Righteous Christians suffer, go hungry and die in famines. Godly asylum seekers are mocked as they keep the rules and continue to wait for leave to remain whilst those who play the system are happily settled with their paperwork in place.

Again, therefore it is important to remember that what is generally true in life will be certainly true in eternity.  Abusers and bullies will face God’s justice.  God is able to keep his people safe, not by taking them out of suffering but by keeping them through life, death and into eternity where the glory and joy of life in his presence will far outweigh suffering now.

Furthermore, Jesus tells us:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”[1]

It’s not just a question of righteous people being hungry and being fed. The very thing that God’s people hunger for is righteousness. I would take this both to mean that we hunger for true justice and that we have that hunger, that desire to be righteous. That longing for justice will be satisfied when Christ returns. That hunger to be righteous has been met in Christ because we are justified by faith.

Conclusion

My hunger for righteousness arises out of the realisation that I am completely unable to make myself righteous. I am not a righteous person going hungry, I am a hungry person who needs righteousness if I am truly to be satisfied. This satisfaction is met in Christ alone.


[1] Matthew 5:6.

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