I want to get back to Psalm 15 today. On December 12th, we talked about the ten measures of character that David listed for us in this Psalm. The first was someone whose walk was "blameless." The next is found in verse 2 as well. David writes, "...and who does what is righteous."
That word "righteous" has always been kind of peculiar to me. It's a very "churchy" word. We sing and talk about it on a regular basis. Sadly, though, I'm not sure that very many of us comprehend what it means to be righteous.
A more secular understanding of the word is an adherence to some established standard of right and wrong. For example, those who obey the law may be considered righteous. I think the Biblical understanding of the word, particularly in the Old Testament (the first half of the Bible), is something a little deeper--more personal, if you will. Righteousness for them meant more. It meant the fulfillment of vows taken in efforts to honor a covenant. Most of the time this was between men and God but could also include any number of human relationships.
More plainly put, a righteous person was one who honored their commitments to God and their fellow man. Obviously, this would encompass a whole lot of things for a whole lot of different situations, but the word caused me to think of something in particular.
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. Proverbs 14:34 NIV
Most of us have heard this verse tossed around. It's an especially popular thing to do at election time or when one likes to combine their patriotism with their religion (i.e. Presidential candidates lobbying for right wing votes). But what does it mean?
Look at the verse again with our definition inserted for the word "righteousness." The fulfillment of your vows in order to keep your covenant exalts a nation...
A nation is known by right living--individually and corporately. In a day and age where our word means nothing, isn't it easy to see how unrighteous lives (failure to honor our covenants) eat at the fabric of a country?
Presidents, Enron executives, Congressional figures, athletes and heroes. Yes, even pastors. Here's my point. Righteous living changes everyone's lives for the better. Our kids need to see men and women of righteousness--adults who don't say one thing then do another (a la Bobby Petrino--my sports-minded readers will detect bitterness in that comment). Righteousness exalts a nation because God understand the value of community built on trust. Community that is built around lives that are steadfast, dependable and right. That's the place where healthy marriages are built, where leaders can be trusted, where education works and the welfare of every man is considered. A place where children don't have to settle in their choice of heroes.
It's no wonder that God desired this of the ones who would inherit His home. I look at my life and wonder where I have been double-minded, even hypocritical in my dealings with others. What damage did I do to my own character? How did I injure the cause of Christ? And how can I work to make my life what it should be in this critical area of righteousness?