RIGHTEOUSNESS: WHAT IS IT?
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." (Matthew 5:6). The Bible truth is that man needs more than food and drink to sustain his life. He needs spiritual nutrition for his soul. That's why Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4). He also said, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him" (John 6:27).
Man is not just a mere animal with physical necessities. We are the special creation of God, made in His image and likeness, equipped with spiritual, emotional and physical needs and desires. We need an intimate relationship with God our Creator and this comes through Jesus Christ.
reminds us of the TV scenes of starving immigrants who flee some drought, civil unrest, or political upheaval with only the clothes on their back. They work or travel in oppressive heat while their little children's bones seem to protrude through their tight skin and their bellies bloat up with parasites. Most of us don't have a clue what real starvation feels like. What a joy it is for these refugees to find abundant food and water!
People are searching for something in life that satisfies their desires and needs. They are hungry and thirsty but not only for bread and water. They want things, material possessions, close relationships, meaning for life and peace. They want to be happy. There is, though, a more vital hunger that God wants us to experience and always stands ready to satisfy. It is hunger and thirst for righteousness. Remembering that "blessed" is sometimes translated "happy", notice what Jesus did not say. He didn't say that those who seek happiness will be happy. Instead, he said that those who seek righteousness will be happy. Those who seek God and His will, those who want to think and act rightly, will find happiness.
Often, the folks who are hungry and thirsty try to satisfy their desires in the wrong way. A child arrives at school hungry and fills up on candy, but when lunchtime comes around he doesn't want to eat anymore. So it is that many who try to satisfy their desires with material things, like alcohol, drugs, sex, various amusements and unspiritual pleasures, discover that they don't find lasting joy. Jesus showed us the path to true satisfaction, contentment and fulfillment in life. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
JESUS IS OUR EXAMPLE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
A thousand years before he was born, it was prophesied of Jesus: "You love righteousness and hate wickedness" (Psalm 45:7). It was also prophesied that:" With righteousness He shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist" .
Jesus is our best example of righteousness, but do you know what righteousness is? It is the same thing as justice, only on a personal level. It is not just treating others fairly or rightly but also doing right yourself. In his life here, Christ treated people fairly, did what was right, judged evil and defended the innocent. His righteousness includes retribution for evil committed. He is a just judge who is involved in the fight between good and evil. In this sense he is not impartial. He wants good to prevail over evil. Jesus loves what is right but hates what is wrong. It ought to be important for us to know that Jesus always did and will always do what is right.
Jesus Christ, the righteous One, always did what God wanted. Even the thief on the cross had to confess: "we are condemned justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong" (Luke 23:41). Because he was righteous, he could say: "Satan has no claim on me" (John 14:30). He always did what was right before God. He showed his righteousness when he expelled the moneychangers from the temple. He could not allow people to turn his Father's house into a den of thieves .
Jesus never rejected a person because of his past mistakes nor abandoned truth for traditions that would deny help to the needy . He gave honor to his companions and shared the truth with others . In every word and deed, Jesus showed us the perfect example of what it means to be righteous.
Jesus is our example of maturity . He is the source of our strength and fruit . As he did, we must desire the fellowship of the family of God , feeding ourselves on the Word of God , sharing our possessions with others . We must obey God instead of men . This is the life that Jesus revealed to us.
Christ's righteousness is also seen in his role of Judge. "God has established a day when He will judge the world with righteousness through Jesus" ( Acts 17:31) . When he comes in judgment, he will divide the sheep from the goats. "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" . What will the Righteous Judge say to you on that day?
Jesus so emphasized the absolute necessity of righteousness in our lives that he said: "Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). He then proceeded to explain how to practice this righteousness. See some things he pointed out in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6 and 7) that are involved in a righteous life:
1. Be merciful
2. Be pure
3. Make peace
4. Illuminate the world
5. Control your anger
6. Control your passion
7. Be faithful in marriage
8. Be honest
9. Consider the well being of others
10. Love your enemies
11. Serve God from pure motives
12. Forgive others
13. Don't be materialistic
14. Seek God and His kingdom first
15. Don't be hypocritical in judgment
16. Value holy things
17. Treat others the way you want to be treated
18. Obey Christ
The Christian life is a life of righteousness, good works, and obedience and even more, these works have to be done for pure motives. Jesus said in for us to not practice our righteousness to be seen by people. All we do we should do before God to please Him, knowing that He will reward us.
Answer these questions in order to measure your own level of righteousness:
1. Have you ever deceived someone on purpose but did not repent of doing it?
2. Is there anyone in your life that you refuse to forgive?
3. Are you constantly making decisions based on "What would Jesus do in my place?"
4. Do you concern yourself with widows, orphans and the poor?
5. Are you strengthening your spiritual life with prayer, Bible study and fellowship with the church?
6. Do you think you deserve God's favor because of your good life?
7. Do you judge people by their clothes, language, race or nationality?
8. Do you think that a criminal can become a good person and important in the kingdom of God?