This blog takes its name from Psalm 36, which speaks of the relationship between justice and wisdom. “The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom,” we read, “and his tongue shall speak judgment (loquetur judicium).”
How can a mouth meditate? Here the mouth is an image of the mind. The words we speak with our tongues originate in our minds. Just as the mouth takes in food and breaks it down for the body’s nourishment, so does the mind receive and process wisdom. Only a mind nourished on wisdom can formulate words that reflect a sound judgment.
Where do we find wisdom? The Psalm begins by warning us not to be “emulous of evildoers.” To emulate is to imitate in hopes of attaining what another has. When we see the all-too familiar sight of a “man who does unjust things” and yet “prospers in his way,” we may conclude that prosperity is the fruit of “iniquity,” and that wickedness is therefore wise. This is the wisdom of the world, whose folly the Psalm exposes.
The world is full of men who “prosper” through various forms of fear, fraud, and exploitation. Though the fruits of iniquity are evident, however, the Psalm assures us that they are of slight value. “Better is a little to the just, than the great riches of the wicked.”
The emptiness of the evildoer’s prosperity is most evident from the vantage point of eternity. For the wicked “shall shortly wither away as grass,” and vanish from his “highly exalted” place in society. Even if he prospers for a lifetime, that lifetime will end. And “the Lord shall laugh at him: for he foresees that his day shall come.”
Does this imply that the wicked enjoy a true if temporary happiness in this world, and that justice entails a lifetime of misery, sustained only by an expectation of otherworldly recompense?
Not so. “Trust in the Lord,” the Psalm bids us, “and do good, and dwell in the land, and thou shalt be fed with its riches.” When we live in hope of entering the promised land, we are already dwelling there in our hearts, and already able to taste its fruits. “Delight in the Lord,” even in this vale of tears, “and he will give thee the requests of thy heart.”
Our hearts truly desire what is eternal and supremely good. The passing things of this world cannot satisfy us. “A little” of the world’s goods is sufficient for the just, because his heart is set on riches far greater than those hoarded by the wicked.
How can we enjoy the riches of heaven while still on earth? If eternal life is to know “the only true God” (Jn. 17:3), then whatever we can know of God now is a foretaste of heaven. Though by faith we see God “through a glass in a dark manner” (1 Cor. 13:12), faith gives us the “substance of things to be hoped for” (Heb. 11:1) by giving us a taste of God himself (Ps. 33:9).
The just man (or the man seeking justice) meditates wisdom so as to fulfill the requests of his heart by delighting in the Lord. He speaks judgment in hopes of sharing the joy that comes from distinguishing true from false riches in this life and the next.
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