Daily Wisdom

Meditations on the Book of Proverbs

5 The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight,

   but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.

6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them,

   but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.

 To be righteous is to be committed to doing the right thing, whatever the circumstances. It is a disposition towards future conduct, to do what is right and not what is convenient. This greatly simplifies decision making, but it does not make it easy. Often the right thing is the most difficult thing to do, but what choice is left to those who reject the alternatives? The straight path overcomes obstacles rather than detouring around them, it is guided by destination and not intention. The blameless consider their past and have no regrets, the righteous consider their future in the same way.

 Have you ever taken a shortcut, only to find it more trouble than it was worth? What looks like the easy way often turns out much more complicated than the right way. Better to do things correctly the first time than to find yourself lost and have to turn back. This attitude delivers the upright from the troubles of those who follow desire. But what else is there to guide the faithless? The upright also have desires, but they trust that good conduct will bring more satisfaction than momentary pleasure.

 The blameless and upright are contrasted here against the wicked and unfaithful. Though they may begin at the same place, it is not long before their paths diverge. While the blameless have no regrets, the wicked justify theirs or at least ignore them. They rationalize more wrong behavior in the same way, eventually accumulating such a burden that it brings them down. While the upright stand firm in the face of uncertainty, the unfaithful stand for nothing greater than themselves. Others may warn them of the dangers they are drawn to, but they don’t believe in what they can’t see. Only when they find themselves trapped do they remember the warnings they ignored. But then, of course, it is too late.

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