The Supreme Value of Righteousness
Sunday, April 22, 2007 -
1 Kings 4:34 - “And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.”
People came to hear Solomon speak like they come today to hear a recording star sing. The Bible says crowds and leaders came from around the globe just to have the chance to hear Solomon. What we can so casually read on a rainy Saturday afternoon on the couch, people used to pay half a year’s pay to obtain. The reason they came is they knew Solomon’s teaching could greatly enrich their lives. When Solomon talked about righteousness, he spoke of it as offering great rewards right in this present age: Proverbs 11:31 - “If the righteous is repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!”
Both righteousness and wickedness pay dividends right now to their investors. People came to hear Solomon because they were hungry for the best life possible. Here’s what Solomon taught about the fruit of righteousness:
1) RIGHTEOUSNESS IS A PATH, AND THE BENEFITS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS COME AS GROWING FRUIT OR BRIGHTENING LIGHT TO THOSE WHO CONSISTENTLY WALK IN IT
Proverbs 4:18-19 - “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.  The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.”
Proverbs 11:18-19 - “The wicked earns deceptive wages, but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.  Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die.”
Some subjects are best learned by being contrasted with their opposite. Righteousness requires more patience than wickedness because it pays its benefits more gradually. Proverbs 4:18-19 teaches that righteousness is like a growing light - like the sun coming up over the horizon early in the morning. It’s starts small and quiet, but grows brighter and warmer as it climbs higher into the sky.
This is why fools can’t be bothered with righteousness. They can’t be bothered waiting for life’s richest pay-offs. This is why the Devil does his best work in ignorant, immature minds. The wicked fall into the enticement of the “deceptive wages” described in Proverbs 11:18-19. They constantly fall prey to the lie that they are going to receive more than they will actually get.
2) SOLOMON TEACHES THAT ONLY RIGHTEOUSNESS CAN FORTIFY A LIFE AGAINST INEVITABLE TRIALS AND STORMS
Proverbs 10:25 - “When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever.”
Proverbs 10:30 - “The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not dwell in the land.”
Life can’t be secured apart from righteousness. Your friends, money, leisure, and career won’t survive the whirlwinds of this life. Those who ignore righteousness and practice wickedness have nothing abiding about their existence. No one will be able to save them from the consequences of their bad choices in this life.
3) ONLY RIGHTEOUSNESS CAN SHELTER THE LIFE IN THE FACE OF DEATH
Proverbs 12:28 - “In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.”
There is a sense in which the end of the righteous and the wicked looks the same (see Ecclesiastes 9:2 & 11), but that’s only judging by the earthly, outward appearance of things. Perhaps the supreme value of righteousness is seen in the fact that it provides a refuge in the face of death:
Proverbs 14:32 - “The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing, but the righteous finds refuge in his death.”
4) RIGHTEOUSNESS BRINGS GREATER CONTENTMENT AND PEACE INTO LIFE THAN ANYTHING ELSE ON EARTH
Proverbs 16:8 - “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.”
These words are stamped on our minds because we are so inclined to underestimate the great value of a good, clean conscience. Solomon offers this profound thought: Without righteousness, nothing else can be deeply enjoyed in this life.
Remember, these words didn’t come from the lips of some poor miser who was desperately trying to convince himself that money can’t buy happiness. Solomon was one of the richest men in the world. He knew of what he spoke. This is what makes his words very much worth remembering.
5) A TEACHABLE SPIRIT AND A RIGHTEOUS LIFE GROW PROPORTIONATELY TO EACH OTHER
Proverbs 9:7-9 - “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.  Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.  Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”
We should all rejoice that one doesn’t have to be brilliant to be righteous. But we do have to be teachable and attentive. And humility is harder to come by than brilliance.
This verse isn’t talking about what we today would call the gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. It’s describing the growth of righteous character - what we today would call sanctifying righteousness. And the outworking of this kind of righteousness is anything but free. It is nurtured by a teachable heart and patient, gracious responses to mistakes and correction.
6) THE ROOTS OF OUTWARD RIGHTEOUSNESS ARE FIRST FORMED INWARDLY
Proverbs 12:5 - “The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.”
As we saw in the last point, the emphasis in Proverbs is on righteous character. But the deeds of righteousness have roots. Here, in this point, we learn that thoughts are deeds in incubation. You judge others by their actions, but we must measure ourselves by our thoughts. We need to increase the security over our minds. See Philippians 4:7-9.