Scriptures and Thoughts on “Righteousness”

What is righteousness?
Just like the word sounds, it indicates behavior that is morally justifiable or right. Comes from the English word “rightwise,” meaning in the right way.

Hebrew
tsedeq/tsedaqah – honesty, justice, merits, right, righteousness, righteous acts/deeds, vindication.  It is a diving attribute and one that humans should strive to develop.

Greek
dikaiosune – used to describe conduct in relation to others, especially in business or legal matters. Frequently used as an indication that one is innocent of a crime of which they have been accused. Contrasted with wickedness.

The same word is also translated as “justification,” showing that the two English words, righteousness and justification, refer to two sides of the same idea and are very closely related.

How does righteousness differ from holiness?
The meaning of holiness is associated with being separated or called out. We are called out to be a righteous people, so the words overlap in meaning, but differ in emphasis.

What are “faith-based” and “works-based” righteousness, and what is up with the big discussion surrounding them?
It is important to understand that we could never be righteous on our own:

(Ecclesiastes 7:20) “There is not a righteous man on earth.”
(Psalm 14:2-3) “No one does good, not even one.”
(Romans 3:10) “No one is righteous.”
(James 2:10) if you stumble in one point, you are guilty of breaking the whole law.

Our righteousness is a gift from God:

(Romans 3:21-23) “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

(Romans 3:24) we are “justified by His grace, as a gift.”

(Romans 5:1) “We have been justified by faith.”
(Romans 5:17) “the gift of righteousness…”

(Ephesians 2:8-9) of salvation… “It is the gift of God, not a result of works, that no one may boast.”

(2 Corinthians 5:21) “He made Him who knew no sin… that we might become…”

(Titus 3:5-7) “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

(Genesis 15:6) “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

Trying to earn our salvation by works is pointless, or worse:

(Galatians 5:4) “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”

So how do we reconcile this with verses on the importance of righteous actions on our part?
(Romans 8:13) “If you live according to the flesh, you will die.”

(Sermon on the mount) “know them by their fruits… he who does the will of My Father in heaven will enter… he who hears my words and acts on them/does not act on them”

(James 2:17) “Faith without works is dead.”
(1 John 3:9) “No one who is born of God practices sin/will keep on sinning.”
(Hebrews 10:26) “If we keep on sinning deliberately/willfully, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…”

(1 Peter 3:12) “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” The righteous and “those who do evil” are separate groups of people. It appears that you cannot be both.

Why are these verses in the Bible? What do they tell us?
(2 Timothy 2:22) “pursue righteousness…”

(1 Corinthians 9:27) “I discipline my body… so that I myself will not be disqualified.”

An important verse to consider:
(1 John 2:29) “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”

(Philippians 1:11) “Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

What does this verse mean?
(Matthew 5:20) “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Can I be kept out of heaven for being unrighteous, even if I am a baptized believer?
(Revelation 2:5) “repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”

(Revelation 2:16) “repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.”
(Revelation 2:22) “Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.”

In other words, they need to make things right with God by changing their actions, or else.

What is it that they need to repent of, and how will they know when they have repented? What punishment follows if they do not?

(1 Corinthians 6:9) a whole list of people who do certain actions will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 What are the main components of day-to-day righteous living?
It is a practice:
(1 John 3:7) “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.”

We live by principles set up ahead of time:
(Genesis 39:6-10) Joseph did the right thing despite consequences.

(1 Peter 3:14) “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”

“Do right by” those in your life:
(Isaiah 33:15-16) “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil.”

(Psalm 106:3) “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!”

 (Ezekiel 18:5-9) “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not… lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel… does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.”

What are some common but meaningful examples of doing the right thing?
Giving back too much change… etc.

What is “righteous indignation” and should I have it?
(Psalm 7:11) “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” An anger which is right to have.

It may sometimes be appropriate. See thoughts and scriptures on “wrath”

Let Justice Roll Down like Waters

In August of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In that speech, he alluded to the words of the prophet Amos when he said: “we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Indeed, it is right for us to be dissatisfied as long as there is injustice in our world. God Himself was truly unsatisfied with His people when he rebuked them in the book of Amos, in the passage to which King referred:

“I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24)

The people of Israel enjoyed festivals, sort of like we enjoy potluck meals and get-togethers. They had solemn assemblies, just as we bow our heads to pray for those who are hurting among us. They offered sacrifices both of animals and of song, even as we take up an offering from our weekly incomes and pour our hearts out through singing.

Yet God was profoundly dissatisfied with the state of things in Israel. The words He used to describe His feeling towards their religious observances are “I hate,” “I have no delight,” “I will not accept,” “I will not even look at,” “take them away,” and “I will not even listen.”

Why? Why would God reject all of Israel’s religion? Because they were not letting justice and righteousness flow through their lives.

Let this be a warning to us. Coming to church on Sunday, giving a few dollars, and singing a few songs is not sufficient to satisfy God.   He wants a people who live their lives in honesty, purity, and respect.

God wants a people who treat others the way they would want to be treated; who truly care about the ostracized, mistreated, and needy in their world. A people who are not content with injustice and who will not accept that “that’s just the way things are.”

As the Lord said in Hosea 6 and as Jesus repeated in Matthew 9, “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Do you honor your husband, wife, parents, or children by the way you live, even when they are not around? Will you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and respond to their needs with love rather than judgment and bitterness? Do you care that others are being mistreated? Will you stand up for those who are being taken advantage of? Will you live a life that puts others first?

Will you refuse to be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream?