Righteousness: The Secret of Life"Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
Opening Prayer: Lord, our generation has the twisted view that righteousness is the absence of joy. Help us understand that righteousness is Your key to discovering true joy.
Did you read the Opening Prayer above? Have you observed that our entire generation seems hostile (or at least allergic) to the word "righteousness?" Have you used the word in a conversation lately -- with anybody but church people?
OK, John, are you being judgmental with us? After all, nobody's perfect except God.
That's my point. Very few folks outside the Church understand that righteousness is a free gift, obtained not by our works but by faith in the perfect sacrifice of our Messiah. Even people who consider themselves Christians, saved by God's grace alone, cringe at the sound of the word righteousness. We'd certainly never use it in conversations with unbelievers, because our society equates righteousness with sourpuss religiosity. That's too bad, because there's no connection between the two. A truly righteous man (by the Biblical definition) won't make a show of outward religious behavior, and outwardly religious folk usually persecute the truly righteous. Just ask Jesus.
Let's see what the Bible says about the subject, starting with Proverbs chapter 10, verses 2, 7 and 25:2 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing; But righteousness delivereth from death.
7 The memory of the righteous is blessed; But the name of the wicked shall rot.
25 When the whirlwind passeth, the wicked is no more; But the righteous is an everlasting foundation.
This is the type of righteousness that most Church people are familiar with -- eternal salvation. The context makes it clear: wicked folk are often very successful at storing up physical treasures, but none of it helps them escape physical death and the certainty of eternal punishment. Righteous men and women can experience death without fear, because their eternal reward is certain. Even their memory is blessed and praised by those still living.
How good do we have to be in order for God to count us as righteous? How can we possibly be good enough?
The answer is that we can't be good enough. Fortunately, God has made that clear since the days of the Exodus from Egypt. Deliverance from death is not by our own merits, but according to the merits of the sacrificial lamb. The Israelites qualified for deliverance by actively participating in the sacrifice, putting its blood on the door, and staying behind its covering. In our case, Jesus is the sacrificial lamb Who gave His life once, to save all of us who trust in Him. We participate by trusting in the merits of the lamb, rather than our own efforts at self-justification.
As if eternal salvation wasn't enough, God graciously provides even more benefits, as we see in verses 25, 28 and 30:
25 When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more; But the righteous is an everlasting foundation.
28 The hope of the righteous [shall be] gladness; But the expectation of the wicked shall perish.
30 The righteous shall never be removed; But the wicked shall not dwell in the land.
In case you hadn't noticed, life is filled with whirlwinds -- big and little ones. Whirlwinds can destroy anything the wicked man owns, but can't touch what God has laid up in store for us in eternity. We can have peace. We can have hope (verse 28). And while we might get pushed around or otherwise inconvenienced for a short while down here, our everlasting foundation is solid.
That sounds pretty "pie-in-the-sky" to me. Aren't there any short-term benefits to receive on THIS side of the grave? Let's look at verses 3, 6, 16, and 24:3 Jehovah will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish; But he thrusteth away the desire of the wicked.
6 Blessings are upon the head of the righteous; But violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
16 The labor of the righteous [tendeth] to life; The increase of the wicked, to sin.
24 The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him; And the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
You can't ask for much more than these verses promise:
- Deliverance from famine
- Blessings (people, places and things that bring joy to your life) showered on you (if you care to notice them)
- Your hard work will be rewarded
- Deliverance from fear
- Your prayers (desires) will be answered.
Are you starting to grasp the enormity of what a lifestyle of righteousness can bring to your life? Some worldly folks would sell their souls just to get item 3 above. Others have sold out in a vain pursuit of item 2, without any real joy to show for it.
But while there's a LOT in it for me, other verses point out how the joyful, righteous lifestyle is maintained:
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life; But violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
20 The tongue of the righteous is [as] choice silver: The heart of the wicked is little worth.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many; But the foolish die for lack of understanding.
31 The mouth of the righteous bringeth forth wisdom; But the perverse tongue shall be cut off.
32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable; But the mouth of the wicked [speaketh] perverseness.
Did you observe how the righteous person behaves after he or she has received the blessings and joys of righteousness? He or she shares the Good News (Gospel) with others, in the family or community. Not by demanding that sinners stop sinning, but sharing the Good News that our Lord has already paid the price to deliver us from sin and death. Look at the rewards here:
- Fountain of life (Your words sustain life and bring refreshing.)
- Choice silver (Your words are remembered and treasured by others.)
- Feed many (Nourishment for growth and health.)
- Bring forth wisdom (You will give advice that is safe to follow.)
- Know what is acceptable (You will always speak appropriately, from love rather than selfishness.)
Proverbs 11:18 further reinforces these principles:He who sows righteousness has a sure reward.
Ask yourself what type of seeds you're sowing and reaping. If you don't care for the harvest, then maybe it's time to change the seed. Plant the Word of God (Scriptures) in your heart, be 100% sure that you've made a commitment to trust Jesus the Messiah rather than your own self-righteousness, and go out and share the Good News with others. It will change your life.
Closing Prayer: Father, I've sown plenty of bad and mixed seed and repent of the harvest. Plant Your Word in my heart, water me through Your Holy Spirit, and let the fruit of the Spirit come forth in my life. Amen.