Once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (Malachi 3:18)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Really? When is this going to benefit us? Right now, whenever we see distinctions between godly and wicked people, it looks like the wicked are winning in every way imaginable. Almost across the board, it seems that they have more fun, make more money, and hold greater power than the righteous do.
Yet the Lord isn't speaking of merely telling the difference--something often easy for us to do. He also promises that the difference makes a difference. It's good to be righteous and bad to be wicked; God will punish wickedness and reward righteousness.
But now comes the "oops" moment, when we look a bit more closely at the differences between righteousness and wickedness and realize that we aren't nearly as good as we'd like to imagine. We're troubled by doubt, prone to be judgmental or have bad tempers, are wasteful of the gifts God gives us, and generally are not all that righteous. And in God's eyes, if we're not all righteous, we're not righteous at all.
The only way we look fairly well off is when comparing ourselves to the "big" sinners who surround us. Yet when we do so, we wrongly judge others and break 8th Commandment.
However, when the Lord promises that we'll see the distinction, we can trust that His words mean something different than when Satan told Adam and Eve that they would be "like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5). For in Him, we not only see the difference but He establishes us to be different, set aside, holy in His sight.
For while sin continues to cling to us as long as we inhabit these bodies of death, we know that the righteous covering that is ours in Baptism marks us as distinct, valued, saved children of God. This is the difference between wickedness and righteousness, between death and eternal life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
My faithful God, You fail me never; Your promise surely will endure. O cast me now away forever If words and deeds become impure. Have mercy when I come defiled; Forgive, lift up, restore Your child. (Baptized into Your Name Most Holy, LSB 590:3)