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Proverbs 21:21

I get a daily Bible verse from Biblegateway.com, and I always get it in two translations: KJV and NIV. Sometimes the KJV is just too florid for my understanding, so I get it in two translations. The other day the verse was Proverbs 21:21, and I read it in several different translations and found it fascinating.

Whoever pursues righteousness and love
finds life, prosperity and honor. (NIV)

He who pursues righteousness and loyalty
Finds life, righteousness and honor. (NASB)

He that followeth after righteousness and mercy
findeth life, righteousness, and honour. (KJV)

The substituted words are “love, loyalty, mercy”. It struck me as interesting that there was such a difference in these translations. How are these substituted words similar? I am not familiar with the original language, so forgive me if my interpretation is less than academic. I am merely stating what the Holy Spirit related to me for my own personal understanding.

One of the most consistent words is “righteousness”. He who pursues righteousness will inherit this wonderful promise. But righteousness is not enough, you must pair righteousness with love, loyalty, and mercy. This two-fold requirement reveals the nature of God. God is holy, God is righteous. But God is more than a flawless being; His love is what drives Him to make His children righteous in His image, so that they may share in eternal life with Him. If you think about what God’s love is, it’s an extension of His mercy, which He bestows upon us in the form of grace. His grace will never fail, and He will never run out of grace. This is the loyal promise of God: that He will pursue you faithfully to the end of your days, bestowing upon you his mercy, grace, and love. He will teach you His righteous ways so that you may pursue it passionately; He has changed your nature so that it desires a life of righteousness and love rather than self-centeredness and sin.

If you pursue God for who He is, and you will find life, prosperity, and honor. The definition of “honor” is this: honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions. The definition of “prosperous” is this: Having success; flourishing. Why does the NIV say “prosperity” rather than “righteousness”? I suspect it has to do with the several references to righteous people of God flourishing. See some Pslams below:

Psalm 92:12 “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon”

Psalm 72:7 “In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.”

Go back and read Proverbs 21:21. Isn’t this an amazing promise of God? If you pursue Him and put Him first, He will bless you.

The unbelievers do not know or understand this promise, but it is extended to them as well. If in their hearts they pursue the attributes of God — His righteousness, love, loyalty, mercy — God will reveal Himself to them. He desires that none of His children perish. They too have the chance to find life, and it is our duty to lovingly show them the way through our actions, both spoken and unspoken. Sometimes we don’t realize how much of a positive effect we have on a non-Christian friend when we simply treat them with courtesy and kindness. They notice when you “Love your neighbor as yourself,” whether you realize it or not. The Christian life is about showing the nature of God whether people expect you to or not; in fact, you must show Christ more-so when people expect you to do the exact opposite! Matthew 5 has all sorts of interesting things to say about a Christian’s behavior. I encourage you to go read it as a refresher.

Let us pursue righteousness and love, not only for our own spiritual growth, but for the sake of those around us.

(This post was originally written February 9, 2011 on the original The God Files.)