Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from death. (Proverbs 10:2)
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. (Proverbs 11:4)
Immediately in these verses our attention is drawn to the end of life, the concept of death, and deliverance from both death and wrath. Not exactly subjects that fallen men love to contemplate. The mottos found in society are more apt to be things like: ‘live for the here and now’, ‘all you have is today’, and ‘you only live once’; but the Scriptures would have us be wise by looking to the future. That is the best way to live wisely today – living with an eternal and biblical perspective.
Unlike the fleeting nature of riches, righteousness profits on the day of wrath (Prov. 11:4). Every temporal investment, in and of itself, will mean nothing in the Day of Judgment. That’s not fatalistic, it’s realistic. According to Jesus it profits a man nothing if He gains the world and loses his soul (Mk. 8:36-37). Righteousness, however, will be the commodity of eternal value. Anyone who ever wished they could time travel into the future to see the stock market’s movements and then travel back in time to invest accordingly, will see the immeasurable significance of that concept as its applied to true riches and the eternal value of righteousness. Every opportunity at gaining worldly wealth would be traded in for an opportunity to grasp the righteousness that delivers from death.
It serves us well to remember that much of Proverbs is aimed at the edification of youth (Prov. 1:4; 1:8) but parents must not overlook the wisdom of these verses. Riches do not profit on the day of wrath; yet, many parents instruct their children as though riches were the pinnacle of life’s pursuit – the mountain top that has bridges to other mountain tops. The accrual of wealth becomes the goal that is the necessary first stop before other goals could be had. Riches, they say, lead to self-esteem, freedom (both financial and otherwise), power (to one degree or another), better company, more connections, more experiences, and so on.
Parents would do well to guard their children from this folly by teaching them of the exceeding value of righteousness and by exhorting them to pursue it.
To do so means pointing to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Scripture is clear that through faith in who Jesus is and what He has done, a person is imputed the very righteousness of Christ into his or her account (Rom 4:23-35). Better than waking up to find a trillion dollars imputed into your earthly bank account is having the righteousness of Christ imputed to your ‘spiritual account’.
The difference, then, between ‘true and false profits’ is the difference between the eternal and temporal – the difference between that which delivers from judgment and that which doesn’t.
Let us be amazed, then, at the imputation and outworking of Christ’s righteousness and be on guard against carnal inclinations towards covetousness. Having been given the righteousness of God (Rom 3:23) let us seek first His kingdom and the outworking of His righteousness in out lives (cf. Mt 6:33), as we live in light of what does and doesn’t profit on the day of death and in the Day of Judgment.