“Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.”
- Proverbs 11:11
We live in a world where everyone wants to be famous.
Shockingly it is becoming easier to do it too with invention of YouTube, Facebook, and any number of reality TV shows. All you have to do is be wilder, crazier, and more willing to say yes than the other guy and you too can find yourself as a viral video or forced to live in a house with 6 total strangers.
While some of these may discover hidden talent such as this Justin Beiber guy I recently heard about (he is a small talent, but hang in there he will be big someday ), most of the time our thirst for fame and fortune will leave us dehydrated and exhausted.
Politicians, musicians, athletes, wives, parents, inventors, and even some pastors have an internal desire to be known in the world. While God does elevate people to higher levels of notoriety than others, there are times when the assent of the ladder to stardom can cause us to do things and compromise things we vowed never to do.
Solomon seems to tease out this reality in the Proverbs 11 when he brings up the idea of righteousness. The Hebrew word used here for righteousness is tsĕdaqah (tsed·ä·kä ). It’s used when talking about justice, acting justly, and truthfulness.
Solomon uses it in comparison of a variety of worldly pursuits such as wealth, power, godlessness, wickedness, and greed. Time after time he presents the fleeting fulfillment of these worldly pursuits in stark contrast to the long lasting effects of a righteous life. I believe he encapsulates this text best in verse 6 when he says,
“The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.”
I can’t tell you how accurate this verse is after hearing the stories of people’s lives crippled with sin. Nearly all of them use that word of feeling “trapped” and not being able to get out. That is Satan’s desire. His goal is for us to choose sinning or sanctifying, selfishness over righteousness, and the ungodly over the Godly.
The heartbreak of these choices is fleshed out in marriages destroyed, character being compromised, integrity crushed, and blatant self-justification of our sin. It even goes so far as to topple entire cities that have caved into sin and ungodliness. Just look at any number of Old Testament towns God had to “take care of” because of their unfaithfulness.
Reaching the finish line of fame, success, and stardom is never worth the race you had to run to get there. You will always leave behind miles of carnage and pain in the process.
However, by choosing to pursue tsĕdaqah, God is quick to bless and lift up those decisions. Proverbs 11 tells us that
- “The righteousness of the upright delivers them,” – v. 6
- “…the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” – v. 28
- “The truly righteous man attains life” – v. 19
- “The desire of the righteous ends only in good” – v. 23
- “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life…” – v. 30
We must be careful that our righteousness doesn’t turn into pride or arrogance. This is a slippery slope that will lead us to a deep destruction too, but a humble righteousness that accepts the Grace given to us and is lived out in a God honoring way is powerful.
Saying “yes” to the right, truthful, upright, and Godly things may mean we will have to say “no” to many of the worldly temptations around us. It may mean less money, fewer friends, and not as many YouTube hits, but in the end we will have made ourselves known to the One who really matters.