Saturday, November 14, 2020

Righteous Living

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33)

The book of Romans tells us that Jesus came to provide us with righteousness. Today, however, most Christians avoid the term righteous. They want to be “spiritual,” but they don’t say they want to be righteous. Satan has associated the word righteous with the idea of self-righteousness, and as a result, we shy away from it. We need to recover this word in its true sense. Jesus said that we should seek God’s righteousness as our first goal.

In Matthew 5:20, we find Jesus saying that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. It is true that at the time of the Gospels, the party of the Pharisees had become largely corrupt and hypocritical, but originally they were the Puritans of Israel. They pursued the righteousness set out by God in the Bible. They were zealous for God’s revealed law. Though they often missed the spirit of the law, they were scrupulous to obey the letter.

Let’s look at the Pharisees. First, Jesus says that they were evangelistic. They were concerned about the souls of men, and they were concerned to advance God’s kingdom on earth. They would travel land and sea to spread the Word, even if they saw only one convert (Matthew 23:15).

Second, they tithed. Ten percent of their income went to kingdom work. They were so careful with their tithing that they tithed even on their herb gardens. Jesus praised them for this, while criticizing them for ignoring other matters (Matthew 23:23). Malachi 3:8 says that to pay less than a tithe is to rob God. How can we seek the kingdom of God and at the same time steal from it? Today, statistics tell us that only four percent of professing Christians tithe—most give less than three percent. What great things could the church accomplish it all Christians tithed?

Third, Jesus says that the Pharisees prayed long prayers. True, they did it to impress men when they did it in public, but at least they had learned to pray. They had become so familiar with the language of the Psalter that they could pray at length and could pray about the things the Bible reveals God is concerned about. What a contrast with the kind of rambling prayers we so often are content with.

We have become so antinomian in our thinking that to encourage righteousness in ourselves and others is deemed “Pharisaical.” We would rather be “spiritual” than righteous. Combat this insidious confusion. Resolve to follow your first call as a Christian by seeking God’s righteousness in all things.