So you will walk in the way of good men And keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will live in the land And the blameless will remain in it; But the wicked will be cut off from the land And the treacherous will be uprooted from it.
The author sets the tone early and as we’ve seen before (and will see again) this theme is repeated often in Proverbs. It is the fundamental promise that the wicked will be punished and the good shall be rewarded. This is the kind of message that is woven into our moral fiber. Even people who reject the idea of any God having dominion over all creation will attest to the fact that good should be rewarded and evil punished. It is the stuff that movie scripts are made of.
The problem is that there is circumstantial evidence to the contrary (at least at first glance). There are thieves that live a life of luxury and decadence. I’m not just talking about purse snatchers here. For every Bernie Madoff caught, you can bet there are several others like him still out there making off with millions. And some stuffed shirts are following the letter of the law but profiting off of the misfortune of many. On the flipside there are righteous people all over the world being taken advantage of, pushed down, and left behind for no good reason. I recently heard about a missionary family who moved to Turkey and within 2 weeks had their house burglarized while they were sleeping.
So what gives?
As usual, I believe the answer remains in the Lord’s perspective. The Lord does not forget his Saints. He sometimes allows them to suffer for his cause, even when they are blameless. He has forgiven his people for their sins but he has also been known to let those same people feel the sting of sin’s consequences. However, from his perspective he knows (and reminds us often) that this life is but a breath compared to eternity. He has prepared a place for his people in his Kingdom and will give them their inheritance there.
Meanwhile, the wicked and self-serving are enjoying the only benefits they will ever receive. I would argue that they aren’t fully enjoying them either. Even if they can somehow blot out their own cancerous guilt, they must feel an empty hole inside them. When you live only for yourself, you become a lonely, shell of a human being before long. Besides, God knows the day when he will hold them accountable.
As Shakespeare famously said: “Let Hercules himself do what he may, The cat will mew and dog will have his day.”