Proverbs 12:2–3 

2A good man obtains favor from the Lord, But a man of wicked intentions He will condemn. 3A man is not established by wickedness, But the root of the righteous cannot be moved. 

The Proverbs direct us in the way of wisdom and teach us what it is to imitate the character of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Last week Solomon contrasted those who love instruction with those who hate correction. This week he contrasts a “good” or “righteous” man with a “wicked” man. 

Now, on one level, the Scriptures tell us that “there is none righteous, no, not one… There is none who does good, no, not one” (Rom 3:10b, 12b). We have all turned aside and by nature both our actions and our motives are corrupt. Apart from God’s grace, we all have, in Solomon’s words, wicked intentions. The two greatest commandments are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Hence, we are to do everything we do – changing diapers, building houses, fixing cars, teaching children, managing investments, running electrical wire – we are to do everything we do with good intentions – out of love for God and neighbor. 

However, by nature, we none of us live that way. We worship idols and love ourselves more than our neighbors. We justify lying or cheating or stealing; we break our vows, mistreat our children, and dishonor our parents; we do shoddy work, use foul language, and commit adultery because we do not live from love of God and neighbor. Hence, we endure God’s condemnation in this life and the next – our conscience afflicts us, our bodies betray us, God’s moral law condemns us, and Jesus Christ will judge us when we die and appear before His judgment seat. A man is not established by wickedness.

Nevertheless, the Scriptures also teach that when God saves us and delivers us from our natural corruption through faith in Jesus, when He turns us from the worship of idols to the worship of His Name, He begins to transform our character. As we have been emphasizing recently, we become like what we worship. And so, because the God we worship is a good God who upholds righteousness, those who worship Him become good men who likewise uphold righteousness. 

As we learn to live this way, as we learn to become good men who uphold righteousness, we obtain favor from the Lord (12:2). God is pleased with us. So Paul prayed for the Colossians that they “may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). As we learn to fulfill the two greatest commandments – to live out of love for God and neighbor – we please God. And because we trust in the Lord and walk in obedience to His Word, Solomon insists that we cannot be moved. Even if we suffer for righteousness’ sake, we are blessed (cf. 1 Pet 4:16). And when we die and enter into the presence of our Lord, He will say to us, “Well done thou good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your Master” (Mt 25:21). The root of the righteous cannot be moved. 

This contrast between the good man and the wicked man recalls Psalm 1. The good man is like a tree planted by streams of water whose leaf does not wither and in whatever he does he prospers. He meditates on God’s law and lives out of love for Him. His roots absorb water from the everlasting fountain of God’s grace and so he flourishes even in times of drought or trial. But the wicked are not so. They are like the chaff which the wind drives away; therefore, the wicked shall not stand in the day of judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

So what of you? Are you sinking your roots deep in our Triune God and in His word so that you can stand firm in prosperity and trial? Are you being intentional about living out of love for God and your neighbor? Or have your loves become disordered? Are you loving self more than your neighbor and loving your neighbor more than God? 

Reminded that we are to be good men who live righteously out of love for God and neighbor, not wicked men with wicked intentions whose loves are disordered, let us confess that our intentions are often corrupt and that we need God to forgive us and transform into His image, into the image of our good God who upholds righteousness