The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.
There is only one way to a successful life – pursue it faithfully and righteously, as unto the Lord. Sinners cheat themselves! They plan and labor toward a goal, but they either miss their target, or they are unhappy once they get it. On the other hand, the righteous diligently and patiently pursue their objectives, and they either obtain what they sought, or they find equal or greater peace and pleasure without it. What a contrast in lives!
Consider the proverb. The deceitful work of the wicked is the elusiveness of success. He aims for pleasure by sin. He pursues his lusts, but the results never satisfy his craving heart or body. Compare the two clauses to prove this interpretation. The wicked man compares to the righteous. The deceitful work compares to the sure reward. Therefore, the righteous man gets what he patiently pursues, but the wicked end up deceived.
Consider some examples. Satan promised Eve she could be like God by rejecting His command and eating the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:1-5). The first terrible results arrived immediately, but they shall never end (Gen 3:6-24; 5:5; Rev 20:11-15). On the other hand, Satan offered the world’s kingdoms to Jesus, but He endured the temptation, and now He rules heaven and earth (Matt 4:8-11; Heb 12:1-3). He obtained the sure reward.
Amnon fell sick with lust for his beautiful half sister, so he conspired and raped her, but the consequences were totally unsatisfying and cost him his life (II Sam 13:1-39). On the other hand, Isaac at 40 and Jacob at 77 trusted their fathers for direction about wives, and they both ended up with beautiful women who feared God – Rebekah and Rachel – and a great progeny. Amnon was deceived, but the two patriarchs found a sure reward.
Israel murmured and complained about manna until they forced God to give them quail. He gave it to them – three feet high in every direction as far as they could walk in a day, but He killed many for their lust and sent leanness into the souls of the rest (Ps 106:13-15). On the other hand, a little salad or a dry morsel is more than enough for two people walking with God and in love and at peace with each other (Pr 15:17; 17:1).
Foolish Gehazi lusted after the rich Syrian garments of Naaman, and he lied to obtain them, but he was sorely disappointed in the end to lose the garments, and he and his family ended up with terminal leprosy (II Kgs 5:20-27). On the other hand, Moses rejected the pleasures and riches of Egypt for the people of God, and he was rewarded with one of the highest offices and most illustrious careers in Israel (Heb 11:24-29), and he appeared in a glorified state with Elijah on the mount of transfiguration (Matt 17:1-3).
The man who works himself to death to get ahead seldom enjoys the riches he gathers, for he had no time to relax and enjoy them, and then he is gone. While hearing of his growing assets, he finds himself discontent and wanting more (Ec 5:10). But a righteous man does not even want the danger or vanity of riches, so he prays for modest income and assets rather than wealth, and he is thrilled with the convenient outcome (Pr 30:7-9).
A righteous man may not see his reward for a while, for sowing is a term taken from farming, where men wait many weeks and even months for the reward of a harvest. The exhortation is to never faint, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal 6:9). Believest thou this, dear reader?
The reward will most surely come for the righteous. Sow faithfully in righteousness, and you shall reap the reward soon enough (Gal 6:7). “So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Ps 58:11). Godliness has promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come (I Tim 4:8).