“Righteousness” was always a word that confused me. It stirred feelings of being uncomfortable, that someone was better than everyone else if they were righteous. The dictionary defines righteous as 1) characterized by uprightness or morality, 2) morally right or justifiable, and 3) acting in an upright, moral way; virtuous. The Bible tells us these truths about being righteous:
Isaiah 26:7 says, “The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.”
Psalm 34:19 says, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”
Job 17:9 says, “Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger.”
Romans 1:17 says, “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ ”
Hmm, that doesn’t sound too bad. We’re called to live a righteous life but how? Priscilla Shirer once explained righteousness in a way I could understand better. In her Bible study The Armor Of God, Priscilla helps us reconstruct the armor of God described in Ephesians 6. The second piece of God’s own armor that we put on is the breastplate of righteousness to guard our hearts, supported by the belt of truth. Priscilla says that God’s Word, the truth, is the train tracks of life and our car on the tracks is righteous living. Let’s give it a try, shall we? What guidance does the Bible give to every day life?
On the topic of anger Ephesians 4:26 says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” I love the advice given in James 1:19-20. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” What about how we should treat others? We quote the Golden Rule often, right? “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Many of Jesus’ parables were about how we are to treat our fellow human beings. The Bible gives us the train tracks for these issues and lots more.
Now that we have the train tracks how we respond is our opportunity to act in righteousness. While recently visiting family in Indiana I couldn’t stop looking at the cornfields. They were so beautifully straight and designed with purpose to the landscape. This imagery reminded me of the train tracks we’re talking about. We have a saying in Indiana to help gauge the health of the corn crops: knee high by the Fourth of July. How can we gauge our day-to-day choices? Jesus promised us such help. “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit or truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17) The Holy Spirit is the promised counselor, the gauge to our righteous living.
Now I look at righteousness differently. It is something I strive for and know will produce the fruit in me the Lord wants. I see the tracks. I’ve got the Holy Spirit in my car. Let’s get moving!