Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
but he who pursues evil will die.
One half of this proverb seems easy enough to fulfill, while the other half is impossible. Most people claim that they do not pursue evil, but who claims to be steadfast in righteousness? No one is perfect.
The contrast is between states of attitude. There are those who strive to do the right thing, and there are those who strive only to get ahead of others through whatever means it takes. Indeed, there are some who delight specifically in cheating and in hurting others.
Jesus weighs in on the first attitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). They will be satisfied because their heavenly Father will protect them and reward them often in this life but especially in the life to come. He who pursues evil will die, often an untimely death in this life, but worse, he will die the second death. As Jesus said, “Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Then there is the contrast between those who are in a state of righteousness and those in a state of sin/evil. Romans 1-3 presents these conditions and the dilemma: “all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin” (Romans 3:9). The Bible makes the case that no one can be steadfast in righteousness; even the person with a conscience to do good only fails (Romans 7:15ff). Where then is our hope? “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,” says the hymn. We are given “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe,” says the Bible (Romans 3:22).
Remain steadfast, then, in Jesus Christ. Keep your faith in him. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By D. Marion Clark. © 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org