Read Proverbs 13:1-25
Occasionally, you will come across a Proverb that doesn’t seem to coincide with your own life experience…or perhaps with that of people you know and love. Verse 21 might be a good example of that:
“Misfortune pursues the sinner, but prosperity is the reward of the righteous.”
I suppose one could simply say that the problem lies somewhere in translation. But even the New American Standard, known for its commitment to a more “word for word” rendering, puts it like this:
“Adversity pursues sinners, But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.”
Our internal conflict comes because we know people or perhaps we have been those who have…
- Pursued a righteous life and yet have experience misfortune and adversity.
- Not lived uprightly but have seemed to have life by the tail.
This kind of blessing/cursing teaching is not unique to this passage. In fact, it was commonplace in the Old Testament. God even gave clear instruction to His people through Moses. Upon entering the Promised Land, some Jews were to stand atop Mt. Gerizim and pronounce the blessings of obedience while others were to stand atop Mt. Ebal to remind the people of the curses for disobedience (Deut. 27, 28; Josh. 8).
How, then, should we understand this? Rather than being a formula that is true in all instances, Proverbs 13:21 is a general principle in this life… but always true in view of eternity.
Let’s illustrate this in the New Testament. Here, we discover people like Stephen and James who paid for their lives of righteousness by experiencing the misfortune/adversity of their own martyrdom (Acts 7, 12). But, in Christ, their lives were rich and their eternal reward was great. Even the apostle Paul, as the potential risk of his own execution seemed very high, recognized that there is a reward for a life lived for Christ that is of more value than life itself. He put it like this:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain…I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far…” (Phil. 1:21, 23)
There is definitely divine reward for a life lived for Christ!