Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivers from death.
In nothing is our common proneness to self-deception more conspicuously manifested than in the erroneous estimate which we form respecting this world and the next. Of the one we think as though it could never have an end; of the other as though it could never have a beginning.
I. THE TREASURES OF WICKEDNESS PROFIT NOTHING. "Treasures of wickedness" should mean wealth which has been acquired by dubious or unjustifiable methods, or which is applied to unhallowed or forbidden purposes. But it may be used to signify all wealth bearing no relation to the command and will of the Almighty; all wealth in the acquisition and expenditure of which religion has no influence. But take the present life only, and appearances are against the statement of this text. What will not riches do and obtain for men! Some things they will not. They cannot give health to the languid, ease to the tormented, nor life to the dead. Therefore, with all their fair appearances, they profit nothing. They bring with them no solid, substantial happiness; no joy upon which the soul can confidently repose itself; no strength to endure trials in adversity. If they could, we have still to keep in mind that man is destined for an eternal existence, and for him the hour is coming in which all must confess that riches are useless — nothing in the sight of immortal man, much less in the sight of an eternal God.
II. WHAT IS MEANT BY RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND IN WHAT SENSE IT DELIVERETH FROM DEATH. The righteousness which delivereth from death is not our own righteousness properly so-called, but the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness, however, involves a righteousness of our own, which is, in its nature, a necessary fruit, and without which it cannot really exist. The righteousness adverted to by Solomon, in the case of the Jews, was first a ceremonial and then a meritorious righteousness. For us there is first an imputation of the perfect righteousness of Christ, and secondly, an actual righteousness of our own; the first being the cause of our justification, and the second its natural and necessary consequence. The righteous man is he who has accepted the salvation of Christ, is in the leading of the Holy Spirit, and has the testimony of his conscience that, in simplicity and godly sincerity, he daily labours to combine a holy life with a humble and contrite heart. Such a righteousness delivers, not from bodily death, but from all those evils that are represented by, and consummated in, death. To disappointment religion opposes hope; to suffering, patience; to the loss of earthly friends, the friendship of One who "sticketh closer than a brother." In the hour of calamity, disease, and death itself, righteousness is proved to be the only lasting, sustaining remedy.
(Thomas Dale, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.