RIGHTEOUSNESS – WHAT IS IT?
Righteousness. What does it actually mean?
This is a big subject but I will try to explain it as simply as I can. We start by recognising that God is righteous because He is morally perfect and therefore always acts in accordance with who He is. His love and justice are in perfect balance.
Secondly, “righteousness” has to do with the a court of law. In a Hebrew court of law, there was no public prosecutor. Every case was brought by the plaintiff against the defendant. Whichever party found favour with the court, was regarded as righteous.
The standard by which righteousness was judged was the covenant law of God. Any person whose behaviour was in keeping with the covenant acquired the status of “righteous”. God’s covenant was the expression of His righteousness and was communicated to His people in the form of do’s and don’ts. To live according to the requirements of God’s covenant was much more than not doing bad things, like murdering people, stealing or committing adultery. It was about living a life of caring for other people and being generous towards them.
God expresses His nature in the way He treats people. He is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6). He wants His people to treat others the way He treats us.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “tsidaq” is often translated “righteous” and is linked with the word “generous” or “generosity”, for example, “The wicked borrow and do not repay but the righteous give generously” (Psalm 37:21); and “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely…” (Psalm 37:25, 26a).
The Apostle Paul picks up the same idea in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. He urges the Corinthian believers to be generous in their gifts to the poor saints in Israel. God would give them the seed to sow and their generosity would result in a “harvest of righteousness” for the sowers.
In the New Testament context, we know that we can never attain God’s standard of righteousness. Because Jesus paid our debt, God can now declare us righteous when He measures our lives against the standard of His covenant.
Being a generous person will not make us righteous. It will reveal that we are already righteous if Jesus has changed our hearts. If we put the words, “righteousness” and “generosity” together to describe the way we respond to what God has done for us, it gives us a better idea of how we do “righteousness” in our everyday lives.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!