The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.
Here is another wise saying contrasting “the righteous” and “the wicked.” But these two parallel lines of Hebrew poetry also offer a contrast between “wages” vs. “earnings” as well as “life” vs. “sin and death.”
The term “wages” involves both the effort to do something and what it produces. This is not handed out freely, but that which someone earned.
Here, what “the righteous” have earned “is life.” I’ll suggest this isn’t eternal life – that can’t be earned (see Romans 3:23)!
But right thinking and good choices can produce an abundant everyday “life to the full” here and now (John 10:10).
It’s the “so I may be reasonably happy in this life”-line of the Serenity Prayer, not the “supremely happy with you forever in the next”-line (see https://helpingupmission.org/serenity-prayer).
We can take that to the bank!
“The earnings of the wicked” also refers to increase for which they have worked — but the product of being “wicked” isn’t pretty. What they can expect as earning for their thinking and choices is “sin and death.”
If we want to be this guy or gal, we have the right to do so — and we’ll live with the consequences! But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s a well-known principle throughout Scripture – Old and New Testament – that we reap (harvest) what we sow (plant). If we plant watermelon seeds, we can’t expect tomatoes!
So, we get to choose — every day — what we want to earn that day. And there are just two basic options — life or sin and death!