Proverbs 11:1 says, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” In other words, God is not in favor of cheating someone by using scales that aren’t properly balanced. Notably, the word for righteousness in Psalm 89:14 means to have a balanced scale. Proverbs 11 makes a distinction between an unbalanced scale that provides riches versus righteousness: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (vs. 4).
Not only that, but “the righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness” (vs. 5). Clearly righteousness wins the day! Being fair, honest, and treating people well is better than building riches through lying, cheating, and stealing.
Life will throw many curveballs, and it’s righteousness that will help us navigate those many storms. All the wealth in the world doesn’t make someone happy. It doesn’t stop death or disease. But righteousness makes the world a better place. It can bring peace and order, and this is what God calls his people to be!
Jewish people have practiced righteousness (Tzedakah) for thousands of years. It is commanded in the Bible. So what does it mean to practice righteousness? In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream was being interpreted by Daniel. He told the king that, though he was made great, he would be made to dwell among the animals and eat the grass of the field as they do. Daniel concluded: “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins byÂ practicing righteousness,Â and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed,Â that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperityâ€ (Daniel 4:27 ESV).
Practicing righteousness as linked to helping the poor. Unlike charity, every person is obligated to do what is right and just. The second highest form of this is to give donations anonymously. But the highest form is to give a gift, loan, or partnership that will enable the poor person to support himself. This is not as much and individual responsibility as it is a communal one. We can see this in Acts 2 and 4 when the believers sold property and possessions so that there wasn’t a poor person among them.
The poor also had a responsibility to practice righteousness by doing all they could to provide for themselves. They, too, gave what they could. People who practice righteousness by helping those in need are given prosperity by God to repeat that cycle, so long as their intentions are to genuinely help the poor. Putting God first in the workplace means that the work we do is to practice righteousness and help others become productive also.
Peter wrote his first letter to Christians who were suffering. He was reminding them that their first importance was to live every day as if it were their last, living to please the Lord. His reminder to not repay evil for evil led into his plea to suffer for righteousness’ sake. If we should suffer, he argued, don’t suffer because you deserve it. Rather, suffer for the sake of being righteous.
Then Peter quotes from Psalm 34, saying, “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 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” (1 Peter 3:10-12 ESV).
Loving life and prayer. According to Peter, these are the bedrock of staying pure and maintaining righteousness. Peter is clear: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed” (vs. 14). This sets an example for the unrighteous, and they will notice the goodness. That’s also why Peter says to always be prepared to give an answer for the reason for the hope that we have. Loving life and praying are essential ingredients for the successful propulsion of Christianity in this world!
Many Christians around the world are celebrating Lent, a period of 40 days of fasting to reflect upon Jesus’ 40 days he spent in the wilderness. This always happens leading up to Easter Sunday. Whether we celebrate Lent or not, it’s important for Christians to understand, reflect upon, and practice denying self. Denying self was one of the core practices Jesus gave for people to be followers of him. He said that anyone would would be his disciple must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Jesus.
Paul understood what it meant to deny himself for the sake of Christ. The letter to the Philippians was possibly the last words penned by Paul before he died. Many believe that Paul knew his end was near when he wrote the letter. Paul said that, prior to becoming a Christian, his righteousness under the law was blameless. But he considered it all a loss for the sake of Christ.
Paul went on: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order than I may gain Christ and be found in him. . . ” (Philippians 3:7, 8 ESV). The word for rubbish was a harsh slang term in Greek that literally would translate to “crap” (or really, a slang word harsher than that). The word is intentionally offensive, and it’s only used here in the entire Bible. Paul uses it to drive his point home that everything we think we value is actually all crap. Our righteousness doesn’t come from the law or flesh, but fully depends on our faith. Everything else does not matter!
Paul made an appeal to the church in Corinth to be reconciled to God: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV). Paul prefaces this by saying that this ministry was given by God himself: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (vs. 18).
Paul says that in Christ God was reconciling the world to him, not counting their sins against them. This is certainly not a human mindset, as we all struggle not to hold sins against others. But God has the power to not hold our sins against us, thereby reconciling us back to him. Paul says that anyone in Christ is a new creation where the old has passed away.
This is the very reason God sent his son to Earth. Christ came to reconcile us to God “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (vs. 21). Paul implores the Corinthians not to receive the grace of God in vain. Paul is not even hinting at cheap grace. The grace of God comes at a very steep cost. It cost Christ his life. Therefore, we are urged to live according to this grace that we receive when we put Christ on in baptism.
In the gospel of Luke Jesus had just given a very lengthy rebuke of the pharisees and lawyers. He was addressing their hypocrisy for essentially putting on a show and requiring all kinds of things from the common people while they themselves didn’t follow their own rules.
After a crowd pressed in on them to the point that people were being trampled, Jesus spoke to his disciples and said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:1-3 ESV).
In other words, people will recognize hypocrisy. Whatever is happening in the dark reveals where your heart is. Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus is telling people to be the same wherever they are. He gives this message to his disciples because it was especially important for them to model consistent, moral behavior. There is a reckoning that is happening among religious leaders who privately are harsh and abusive but publicly look squeaky clean. Jesus was warning his disciples to remain holy at all times for the sake of the kingdom.
The Israelites cried out to God and he heard their groaning. Therefore, God led them out of Egypt and freed them from horrific slavery and oppression. For forty long years they wandered in the wilderness. God promised that they would soon enter into the fertile region of Canaan, a land rich with milk and honey.
But lest the people think that the land was a reward for their good behavior, God reminded them that it was because of the wickedness of the other people that God was driving them out. “Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me into possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you” (Deuteronomy 9:4 ESV).
This is a strong reminder that we should be careful not to tout our righteousness and say that God is blessing us because of our faithfulness. Rather, God blesses because of His righteousness. He protects the vulnerable and drives out the wicked. This certainly is good news for people who are facing troubles in their lives. God will lift people out of the mire of poverty and oppression because he is righteous.