It must be a big, big deal.
I’m not sure that everyone in your circles today is inspired to earn this designation. In fact, it’s often used in a derisive manner, for people who reject a certain high-bar moral or ethical standard. At a time when people with character deficiencies win awards and elections, it may be more of a liability – in the minds of many – than an asset. Depending who reports it – or, claims it – it can be bona fide or phony. Despite the cultural conflict regarding its formula, there is a longing within most people to both be around – and, to be – what it portrays.
What is “it?” It’s righteousness: to be found righteous.
Nearly 500 times in the Bible – over 150 times in the New Testament alone – it comes up as a principal focus and definition, both for God and for the people who are in relationship with him. On occasion, the adjective attaches to religious people who live to fulfill their own concept of what righteousness is. On those occasions, Scripture calls them out as opponents of God and his truth. Real righteousness – the kind that qualifies for recognition in heaven – is modeled first by God, and then by those who replicate it in their own lives.
If there was a righteousness meter, designed to sense and measure the presence of righteousness in rank-and-file humans, what would it take to set it off? What are some indicators of that quality-of-life that would certify that the individual is on the righteousness spectrum?
David came on the stage about 3000 years ago, but many of his insights were included in the inspired Word of God. Here’s an interesting observation from King David, near the end of his 60-year life and 40-year reign over Israel: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.” (Psalm 37:25-26).
How do you spot a real-deal, righteous person? One of David’s key qualifiers: generosity.
Then, as now, extremes portray strongly the existence of core differences. David saw the generous person in a positive light; the opposing model has no compelling value. Ask any reasonable person their aspiration: if the options are generous or selfish, which would score the most hits?
Solomon grew up under David’s influence; that nurture, his father’s lifestyle, and God’s gift of wisdom all converged to shape Solomon’s declaration in Proverbs: “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:24-25). In his opinion, there was no contest: life’s winners are all generous, from the heart. Lacking that, you lose…
That shouldn’t be a surprise. God the Father, righteousness in all that he does, is generous: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). The Father is generous: he gave what he loved the most to those he loved the most.
The Son exists in sync with the Father. His outlook: “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28). To be great in Jesus’ Kingdom – with promotions awarded in keeping with righteous living – would mirror the generosity of the King who came, not to take, but to give…
It’s a constant challenge: does my practice of generosity demonstrate the righteousness of God?