The Rewards of Righteousness – Proverbs 21:21

The Intellectual Pursuit Of Anything Pales In Comparison to Reaping The Rewards Of Experiencing It

Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

Rewards of Righteousness

The disciples of Christ read in the word of the Living God that we are to live lives in righteousness.  (Self-)Righteousness is not required because we have been adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters.  We receive our righteousness though belief in Jesus Christ, made possible by His perfect life, death, and resurrection on the cross.  His shed blood covers our sin, and we are clothed in His righteousness.  Our sanctification is the application of our imputed (legally acquired) righteousness in how we live our lives in holiness before God.  Righteousness (in this case, the pursuit of sanctification) has its own specific rewards.  We can rest assured that God both rewards faithfulness as well as punishes wickedness.  The author of this Proverb, however, links love with righteousness

Linked with Love

Love is THE defining aspect of God’s holiness and righteousness.  A person cannot be righteous without displaying agape love – a love that is volitional, sacrificial, and unconditional.  The two greatest commandments in the Law are:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love [agape] the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love [agape] your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Notes in brackets added for clarity.)

Without love, we cannot be righteous.  And righteousness, or even exercising spiritual gifts without love is worthless:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

When we pursue righteousness and love, we are shown* that we will find three things – Life, Prosperity, and Honor.

Long Life

The very first promise is that we find life.  But we don’t just find life here on Earth – we find Eternal Life with God in His kingdom.  As we pursue righteousness and love, freed from the bonds of sin by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we are obeying God’s will for our lives.  We find spiritual life in abundance:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Powerfully Prosperous

Most people use their physical eyes to see the world.  God challenges us to see with our spiritual eyes and listen with our spiritual ears:

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

All Earthly wealth will eventually rot and burn, but spiritual wealth has made us wildly rich:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

When we have eyes that see and ears that hear, we recognize that we are being made prosperous in heavenly treasures.  And while God may or may not prosper us here on Earth, our reward will be great in Heaven as we pursue righteousness and love.

Heavenly Honor

There is but one note of praise that every disciple of Christ desires to hear.  That praise is not from men, but from our Lord Jesus Christ when we go to be with Him:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Those who pursue righteousness and love labor for the reward of praise from a most holy God.  It is the greatest honor for God, as our master (for we each should be a doulos** to our Lord) complements us in being faithful to His commands.  This is the equivalent of the highest form of accolade and accomplishment possible.  This is the Heavenly equivalent of getting a Grammy Award in music, or a Nobel Prize, or a Congressional Medal of Honor.  It is the highest achievement possible in our field of endeavors.

And God will not only honor us there.  When we pursue righteousness and love here on Earth, He will acknowledge us among men as well, regardless of our circumstances.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What will my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, say to me when I am reunited with Him in glory?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who raise people up and bring people low.  You alone are sovereign Lord over all.  Thank You for adopting me as Your child.  Please help me to grow in grace, love and righteousness, that I may honor and glorify Your name.  Show me what I am to do, for You already have prepared my work for me in advance.  Help me to submit myself to you as Jesus submitted to You.  Watch over me, and use me as You see fit.  I look forward to my report from You when I will be joined with You in glory.  Help me to have the best report that I can.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Please Note:  This blog has been edited for clarity (changes have been made in the first paragraph to provide better insight into the difference between the imputed righteousness of Christ and the pursuit of sanctification [holy and righteous living in the presence of God]).

* The proverbs are not promises, but rather generalized truths about life and spiritual matters.  We are able to glean great wisdom and insight from their truths, but it is not proper to interpret the proverbs as being absolute promises.  God is still sovereign, after all…

** A doulos is a slave, but not in the ordinary sense of the word.  Slaves had no say whatsoever in their situation.  A doulos was a slave who was freed by his master, but loved that master so much that he begged his master to take him back as his bond-slave.  The doulos‘ ear was pierced by an awl on the door, and everyone would recognize that mark as one who loved his master and voluntarily submitted to him because he was treated so well.

In a spiritual sense, the word doulos speaks to the willingness of the disciples of Christ to submit themselves to the Holy Spirit, being freed from the bondage of sin, and voluntarily submitting themselves to the commands of their Savior.

Many of the Epistles in the New Testament were written by those who identified themselves as a doulos of Christ.

Witnessing for God – Matthew 10:34-39

Choose This Day Whom You Will Love

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own
household.’

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

Agitation and Accord

From the moment a person chooses to believe God and follow Jesus, their life will be irrevocably changed.  People that they once had great relationships with may now become their bitter enemies.  War will ensue where peace had prospered.  And although we are told that, to the best of our ability, we should be at peace with everyone, we will encounter people who view our change of allegiance from Satan (and the world) to God as a declaration of insanity and hatred towards them.

Many people will not be able to understand that disciples of Christ are not people who are now members of a cult.  In their minds, that is how they are perceived.  One moment, they are drinking, carousing, swearing, doing everything that everyone else is doing (right or wrong), and suddenly they become Mr. or Mrs. “goody-two shoes”, declining to participate in activities once considered dear, acceptable, and pleasurable by everyone else.

In the eyes of the world, you have become an enemy of the state – your very actions now show that not only can you not be trusted because you are changing, but that someone or something has remarkable remarkably changed your life, and in their eyes, usually for the worse.  They don’t want to know what it is, because they may begin to get “sucked-in” and have to give up their way of life.  They may also be concerned that in the grey areas of life that they live, you may now have to “rat them out” if they do something that is a bit unlawful.

In their eyes, you have declared war on them and your relationships.

Family can turn Foul

Even the most stable of relationships can be affected.  Jesus lists several familial relationships that may be strained or even broken because of your sudden love of God:

  • Fathers and Sons
  • Mothers and Daughters
  • In-laws and their children’s spouses

Fully expect there to be some resistance by any who have not given their lives to Christ.  Most people in culture believe that family comes first.  And when you give your life to Christ, they may feel as though you have broken this “unwritten” rule of relationship.  The fact is, when you give your life to Christ, you are – in effect – changing your allegiance from your biological family to your spiritual family.

Love the Lord

Your identity has now moved from your biological family to your spiritual family:

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Additionally, we are to love Christ more than anyone or anything else:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

In this short passage, it seems to indicate that we must hate our family.  This is not the case!  This is a form of hyperbole – Jesus is merely pointing out that our love for Him should be so strong and secure that our love for our other family members should look like hate in comparison.  We are to love them, but we are to love God even more!

Bear your Burden

This next part of the passage is very similar to the instructions that Jesus gave to His disciples elsewhere:

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

We are to bear our burdens and do so with joy.  The Lord God Almighty has replaced our heavy burden of trying to earn our way into Heaven through good deeds (impossible) to merely believing upon the finished work of Christ on the cross for our sins.  Grace and mercy are ours if we decide to accept them.  And in doing so, we must be obedient to God and His word, for we do not wish to rebel against the one who gave their lives His life for ours!

And while obedience to God (which some call works or legalism) does not grant entrance into the kingdom of Heaven, it does show that we love God, even more than our very own lives.  For if we love our lives (the way that we want to do things, living in a way that pleases us rather than pleases God) we will lose them.  If we lose our lives (living them in such a way that they are pleasing to God, regardless of the consequences and outcome of that level of devotion to Him) for His sake, we will gain them:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living my life in such a way that, by example, it is a powerful witness to how much I truly love God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me eternal life through the shed blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to live life in such a way that it is a powerful witness to others of You and Your word.  Help me to witness in both actions and words, that both would be in harmony and unity with Your will.  Help me to overcome any sorrow or anger when others who were once considered my friends turn against me because of my love for You.  Help me to have a heart of compassion towards them, and I pray that You will powerfully prepare the soil of their hearts so that the seeds of salvation would take root and flourish in them.  Help me to always remember that You come first, no matter what.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


This blog has been edited for clarity, spelling, and other errors.