“The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the traitor for the upright.”
This proverb tells us (warns us) that bad people will pay a high price for their wickedness. The reference to “ransom” is not speaking of salvation or atonement for sin. It is not saying that wicked men will redeem the righteous.
A ransom for sin involved an innocent victim offered instead of the guilty party. Christ, the sinless Lamb of God was a ransom for our sins… we who are guilty sinners.
According to man’s justice the guilty are punished and pay a price for the sake of the righteous… that the righteous may be protected and/or delivered from the injustice of criminals who seek to do harm. When a lawless criminal breaks into the home of an innocent family and does much damage to the home, if he is caught, the “wicked pays a ransom” on behalf of the people (and community) he has wronged.
In a court of human justice, the transgressors are the ones who pay the price. The thief will go to jail or may have to pay restitution.The guilty criminal is punished, and the innocent is cleared… delivered… “ransomed” by the punishment that is dealt to the guilty.
God’s grace operates differently. With God’s grace toward us, the innocent (Jesus) pays the price for the guilty (us). 1 Peter 3.18 spells it out: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
But in this proverb, Solomon isn’t talking about grace which results in a ransom price for sin; rather, he’s talking about justice for wrongdoing. Solomon also notes that in the cause-and-effect world that God has created, wicked people often become victims of a providential form of justice, and they simply suffer the natural consequences of their wayward behavior.
Thus, the term “ransom” is used here in a generic sense. It simply means “a price paid.” Sometimes, transgressors end up paying a price on behalf of the upright. There are times when the wicked (who often persecute the righteous) end up paying a price which “sets free” the very righteous people they have persecuted.
And sometimes the evil plans of the wicked backfire on them, and they end up suffering the natural consequences of their evil behavior. In other words, they pay the price for being bad. In the end, one way or another, the wicked will pay; if not in this life, in the life to come.
The Lord says it clearly in the book of Galatians: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6.7)