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The world has its own proverb: Nice guys finish last.
Let’s face it, we’ve all seen mean-spirited and/or deceptive people make it to the top. We’ve all seen nice guys (or gals) finishing last. That’s where the proverb came from.
We want Solomon’s proverbs to be true – that meanness gets you nowhere (v 18) and that all crooks (or “bad people”) are punished (v. 21). Sometimes real life doesn’t seem to bear it out, and we ache for wrongs to be righted. Maybe it’s the office liar who makes others look bad in order to elevate him or herself. Maybe it’s worse than that.
There are scores of child abusers who go unpunished. What about all the murderers who “got away with murder” (genocide, in some cases)?
Jesus provides some assurance on the issue of child abusers (Mark 9:42, Matthew 18:6). But, mostly, he turns all of this on its head.
He instructs us to be less concerned with the punishment of others, and more concerned with the condition of our own hearts. He cares about the misdeeds of everyone, including us, and how we respond to others.
He says we will be judged even for our anger toward someone else, and if we call someone “worthless,” we are “in danger of the fires of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22).
So, when we read Solomon’s words, we cannot see ourselves as the “good people” (v 23) and feel assured we can live, think and speak as we wish, because Jesus sees our hearts. We can only be “good” and be called “God’s people” by his grace.
Whether these proverbs prove true now, they certainly prove true in eternity: God’s people will receive their reward.
Heavenly Father,you alone are truly good. We are tempted to compare ourselves to others and to feel we are good. Help us to be honest with ourselves and with you, so that we are not tempted to judge others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.