'Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.' - Proverbs 11.4
The proverbs of the Bible can be often be understood in different ways. We can understand them as relating to day to day life in some way. We can also see a deeper, eternal meaning in them. Perhaps this proverb is one. It would be hard not to see this through the lens of the gospel.
He certainly cuts to the chase here doesn't he? It reminds of what is most important in this life and what will matter when we die and when we stand before God. Matthew Henry, when writing about this proverb in his commentary says only this, 'Riches will stand men in no stead in the day of death'.
That's it. Full stop. As Christians we know this don't we? We have heard time and time again about the need to store up treasures in heaven on not on Earth, where, 'moth and rust destroy.' Yet how easy it can be to get caught up in a worldly way of thinking. How easy it can be to want to pursue riches and possessions over other things. How easy it can be to idolise those good gifts that God gives us. We can end up pouring all of our efforts and talents into gaining more and storing up more for ourselves. We can quickly become anxious when we look at the bank balance and we don't have the cushion we perhaps would like. It is because of this that we must constantly remind ourselves of what is most important. We must think ahead to that day when we still stand before the Lord.
The writer calls it the 'day of wrath.' Without the Lord Jesus and his death and resurrection we would face the wrath of God for our sin. It would be deserving. In that moment no amount of money or worldly possessions would save us. None of it would matter, it would seem so insignificant and pointless as we look into an eternity without Christ. These treasures may have been enjoyable for a while but they would be of no eternal significance or help.
In contrast there is something that will benefit us. Something that will deliver us from death. That is righteousness. Now in proverbs those who are righteous are those who love the Lord and seek to obey the law of God. We know that none of us can do that perfectly. We not have a righteousness of our own that can save us from God's wrath. The good news however is that there is one who is righteous, there is one who can save us from the day of wrath. He is Jesus Christ. He is the only righteous sinless one who perfectly obeyed God, went to the cross and bore the Father's wrath and rose again from death to save us. It is only through faith in him that we can be saved.
Paul shows us in Philippians of the need for a righteousness from outside of ourselves,
'..and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God that depends on faith-..' (3 v 9).
Having this righteousness from Christ is what matters most and is what will save us on the day of judgement.