Living righteously, seeing differently
Psalm 112 (NRSVA)
1 Praise the Lord!
Happy are those who fear the Lord,
who greatly delight in his commandments.
2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures for ever.
4 They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.
5 It is well with those who deal generously and lend,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
6 For the righteous will never be moved;
they will be remembered for ever.
7 They are not afraid of evil tidings;
their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.
8 Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
9 They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor;
their righteousness endures for ever;
their horn is exalted in honour.
10 The wicked see it and are angry;
they gnash their teeth and melt away;
the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.
I don’t know about you, but I find this passage quite difficult. The Psalmist, at first, seems to be offering a kind of prosperity theology — be obedient to God and he will bless you with good earthly things. Not only does that reek of the sort of TV evangelism which seems miles from the teachings of Jesus, but it doesn’t reflect our experience of life.
We all know loads of Godly people who get cancer, whose marriages fail, whose children die, whose careers do not prosper. We all, too, probably know loads of people who thrive and succeed with no place for Jesus in their lives.
I think the Psalmist has a different message here. Living righteously with God gives us a new perspective on life. We are no longer bound by the limited earthly ideas of success and prosperity of this world. We are invited into God’s economy where His creations of justice and grace last for eternity. It’s from verse 6 onwards that this passage has real power. As followers of Jesus we cannot be shaken. We have this firm and unbreakable promise that we are known and loved by God and that he always has our best interests at heart. We also know that we can never become righteous through our own efforts. The astonishing thing is that Jesus died so that we don’t have to agonise over that. We are right with God because of Him.
Father God, we thank you that we can have complete confidence in You. Whatever life throws at us, You will continue to love us. Show us how to live well in Your mercy and grace. Help us to live the lives You desire for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.