Proverbs 13:6 ESV
Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked.
In the ultimate account of the world, righteousness, the true righteousness which comes from God, is a guard, a protection, to the man whom God loves; vice, conversely, brings about the downfall of the wicked. Therefore, the man who loves righteousness will find that righteousness preserves him, and the man who loves wickedness will find that sin destroys him.
Psalm 119:105 gives us the basis of all righteousness: “Your (God’s) word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Righteousness derives from God, from His character, and He grants us an understanding of it in His Word, the Bible. Christ is not speaking frivolously or without cause when He says in Matthew 5:19, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” The law of God is the fundamental order of reality, because the law of God is, ultimately, His character revealed to us, and He created this world in which we live (Genesis 1:1).
Why ought we to think righteousness will guard our paths, if we walk in it?
The blessing of the God upon the righteous can be categorized into two parts, albeit these parts are not operatively separated, being ultimately derivative of the same God. There is the blessing God gives directly, His preserving power, as seen in verses such as Romans 8:28, and there is the blessing God gives indirectly, through the normal operation of the world, as seen in the verse at hand. The first is fairly obvious: God blesses the righteous and curses the wicked, particularly those who have covenanted with Him by entering the church. Deuteronomy 27-28 lays out the two sides of this condition, the blessing which attend obedience and the curses which attend disobedience; the fulfillment of these curses can be seen, of course, in the prophets of the Old Testament, in the prophecies of Matthew 24, and in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The fulfillment of the blessings, meanwhile, becomes obvious in the reign of Solomon, where silver was so common as to be without worth (1 Kings 10:21), as well as in other instances, such as the book of Haggai.
The indirect blessing, meanwhile, can best be described as the working out of God’s creation of the world. God created a world consonant to His character, which would bring ultimate glory to Him, as He is the rightful possessor of it. The world He created, the creation we are a part of, therefore prospers righteousness because righteousness is consonant to it; in other words, because God is righteous, His creation reward righteousness. In this way, righteousness will guard a man’s paths, though we must remember that this does not mean a life of ease or comfort. Righteousness leads to God, and the road towards God is a road which draws the ire of the wicked, of all sin, and therefore a road fraught with difficulty. Yet at the end of this road and all along the way stands Christ the Lord, who gave Himself for our sins, that we might have life in His imputed righteousness.
The second half of this proverb should now come into focus. What does it mean for sin to overthrow the wicked?
Sin self-destructs. The wage of sin is death (Romans 6:23), but that isn’t just a statement of punishment. Death is an integral consequence of sin, not something tacked on afterwards as retribution. We can see this on a small scale in our daily lives. Pride leads to broken relationships, anger, and over-reaching. Anger leads to rash, ill-considered actions which detonate in our faces. Greed leads to poverty and destruction or the misery of the miser. Gluttony leads to obesity and all its attendant health risks. Lust (improperly handled) leads to failed relationships, stagnancy, waste, and worse. Sins do not leave the sinner unmarked- dissipation has its consequences, consequences inseparable from the crime, particularly on a spiritual level.
Sin, furthermore, is the catalyst and reason for judgement. Haggai 2:10-19 lays out the truth: obedience leads to blessing, and disobedience, a.k.a. sin, leads to curses. Sin, in the end, leads to the rebellion described throughout the prophets in passages like Jeremiah 44; the wages of this sin are evident. The destruction of Babylon in chapter 50-51 of Jeremiah should prove a bitter warning to us all, that we not tread upon the ground Babylon tread, that we might not have it said of us, “Because of the wrath of the Lord she shall not be inhabited but shall be an utter desolation; everyone who passes by Babylon shall be appalled, and hiss because of all her wounds” (50:13).
What does this all mean for us, in our day to day lives? The words of the classic hymn, ‘Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted’ seem here appropriate:
Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly
Here its guilt may estimate
Mark the sacrifice appointed
See who bears the awful load
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed
Son of Man and Son of God
Sin’s true weight is not the effect it has on us; that effect is a by-product. Sin’s true weight is the spurning of God and His glory; for the Christian, it is the spurning of the person’s own relationship with the Almighty. Yet in this light righteousness attains a new beauty: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” proclaimed the angels, and righteousness is a proclamation of that same message, of the primacy and victory of Christ, son of man and son of God.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.