The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 11:4

 

As I was re-reading this chapter yesterday, thinking about the verses we’ve skipped, I thought I could see a loose relationship between five of them. Verse 4 – “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.” Verse 7 – “When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.” Verse 19 – “As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.” Verse 28 – “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.” Verse 31 – “Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.”

Don’t these verses speak of similar subjects from different points of view? Let’s consider riches versus righteous; life versus death; gain versus loss; and the theist compared to the atheist. One thing which links all of these is day-to-day earthly living. Even though Solomon often speaks about eternal things, these verses quite clearly refer to our three score and ten years in this world.

First, he ties together two great parts of man’s existence – LIFE and DEATH.

Verse 4 – “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.” Verse 7 – “When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.” Verse 19 – “As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.”

How much did Solomon know about death? Babies may die, but they don’t recognize death in others or understand it. It may come close to them, but it does not affect them emotionally. Kids learn about death at different ages and in different ways. How old were you when someone really close to you died – either unexpectedly or after a long illness? I was a pre-teen when my visiting grandfather suddenly died in my bed, while I slept down stairs. It was my first direct experience with death. When you were first confronted by death was it violent? Was it traumatic? Solomon was a grown man when he brought these verses before our attention. He had seen the bodies of brothers and others; he had ordered the execution of wicked men. He was reasonably familiar with the subject, and he could speak with some authority. “My brother Absalom was not protected from the day of wrath by his money or elder brother position. He was trying to thwart our father’s wishes and to make himself king, but his expectation perished. He and another brother of mine, pursued evil to their own early deaths.”

In this case, righteousness might have delivered Absalom and Adonijah from the grave. “Righteousness tendeth toward life.” It is not a guarantee, because even righteous men can be murdered or become martyrs. But righteousness is always the right choice – not only for eternity but for today as well. The thief may be killed during his burglary; the addict risks his life; the fornicator and adulterer expose themselves to disease and murder. “Righteousness tendeth toward life,” and sinfulness tendeth toward destruction.

Two of these verses compare RICHES and RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Verse 4 – “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.” Verse 28 – “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.” We might apply “the day of wrath” to the day of God’s judgment on the wicked – making a spiritual lesson. But does that properly compare to this “death?” Do you suppose Solomon is speaking about “the second death”? Paul or John might do that, but was that Solomon’s subject? Once again, it appears to me that this is referring to earthly life. Is that rich man’s wealth going to cure him of his cancer? What is the likelihood that his striving for gold is going to increase his chances of a heart attack? “Riches profit not in the day of wrath,” and they can’t directly “deliver from death.”

Obviously, riches and righteousness are not directly opposed to each other. The opposite of wealth is poverty – either physical or spiritual. And the opposite of righteousness is sinfulness or wickedness.

So why does Solomon, in these verses and elsewhere, bring these two things side-by-side? Isn’t it because the man who chooses to become rich, often does so at the expense of righteousness? God may make a righteous man wealthy – it is a gift of divine grace. But the man who determines to become wealthy without God, does so at the expense of the spiritual side of his life. On the other hand, the man who puts righteousness foremost in his life, abiding in Christ the vine, will flourish as a branch of the Lord. So laying aside the eternal blessings of the Child of God, to live as one of God’s children, is the best way to live today – tomorrow – any day. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Several of these verses contrast GAIN and LOSS.

Verse 7 – “When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.” Verse 28 – “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.” Verse 31 – “Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.” This last verse brings home the fact that Solomon was speaking about life on earth.

For the sake of illustration, let’s say that two close friends, grew up in love with sports. They played baseball together, and were both on their school’s basketball and football teams. They were both sought by the same university, and both were offered full athletic scholarships. Once in university, one of the boys applied himself100% to sports, striving to become a professional ball player. But the other saw the opportunity to get a free education while playing college ball. He spent more time in the library than he did in the weight-room or gym. Three years after their graduation, one had been disabled with concussions and knee surgeries, while the other was building a successful business based on what he learned in college. I know that the story fails to illustrate righteousness and selfish egoism, but let’s pretend it does. The expectation and the glorious hope of the one perished quite quickly, but the other man was recompensed in the earth – because he made the better choice. As I said, righteousness is the better choice, not only for eternity, but also for life in these United States.

There is a reason why these contrasts exist.

Verse 4 – “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.” Verse 7 – “When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.” Verse 19 – “As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.” Verse 28 – “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.” Verse 31 – “Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.”

There is a reason why both “the righteous (and the wicked) shall be recompensed in the earth.” It is because there is a God in heaven who is king over the affairs of this world. Christ does not have to await for His Millennial Kingdom before executing His authority over His creatures. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” “Righteousness exalteth individuals: and sin is a disaster for anyone.” That is not simply one of the natural laws of the universe. It is a divine law though which Jehovah governs the world. “Righteousness tendeth to life.” Proverbs 19:23 – “The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.”