5 The good deeds of the blameless pave a peaceful, productive path,
but wrongdoers trip over their own faults.
6 The good deeds of the upright will rescue them,
but the faithless will be conquered by their shallow desires.
There’s a familiar saying: “What goes around comes around.” Basically, it means we get what we deserve. If we’re good then good things will happen and if we’re bad then bad things come. Experience tells us that’s sometimes right although we might spend years waiting for life to ‘even out’. At first glance my readings today might seem to fit with a belief in a cosmic balancing of good and evil that some religions call karma. It’s a popular word and idea, I’m sure you’ve heard of it.
There’s one major difference between what Christians believe, what the Bible tells us and this impersonal force. That difference is summed up in Mark 15 where an innocent man dies a cruel hard death so that you and I don’t have to.
Does that mean that bad things will never happen to us or that good things will never happen to bad people? We only have to look around the world to see that’s not the case. There are atrocities, persecutions etc. happening to all sorts of people all over the world while here, closer to home, good things are happening to all types of people.
Justice. It’s a word we value, an idea we hold as important. It’s a word we apply to a lot of situations and that’s been given many meanings. We read Psalm 54 and the writer is crying out for justice over his oppressors. He is confident he can see the Lord’s hand in his deliverance, in his victory. Looking at Mark 15, the bystanders were sure they could see that same vindication in Jesus’ death. They mocked Him for His claims; sure this was God’s judgement.
How right they were. It was God’s judgement. It was the judgement they themselves fully deserved being taken by someone else.
Unless we are absolutely sure we have no sin then we shouldn’t be calling for God’s judgement on people. He is more than capable of seeing to that Himself. Our role is to be thankful for the mercy we have received in place of judgement. When we think of our failures, our sins and the fact that instead of justice we receive grace then we ought to be thankful all the time.
After developing that thankful heart, as soon as it starts to grow, mercy towards others should spring up. When we read these Proverbs there can be a move towards self-righteousness. ‘We’ are the good, the godly and ‘they’ are the wicked. In one very real sense that is true. But the moment we forget that it’s not our own work that makes us godly, that it’s by grace we are saved; the moment we forget our call to offer that same grace to others – we trip just as ‘they’ do.
God is good, His mercies new every morning. His mercy to us who know and love Him and to those who do not yet have that relationship. Our call is to share that mercy everywhere we go.