Righteousness or Rightness?
Mar 13, 2014 5868
Jesus said a curious thing to the Jewish people:
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach” [tippy title=”Matt. 23:3″]so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.[/tippy]
What Jesus was warning them about was to not confuse rightness with righteousness. Don’t confuse being right with being righteous.
The problem with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees was not that they were wrong; they were right in many things. And so Jesus said, “By all means respect them. Listen to then carefully, and do what they say.” But while they were right, they weren’t righteous. They didn’t do what their own words said they ought to be doing. And so Jesus said, “Whatever you do, don’t do what they do!”
The whole focus of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees was on being right, and they thought that by being right, they would also be righteous. They were great Bible students, great scholars of the Word of God; they were great teachers who had satisfactorily worked out many of the challenges of Scripture; yet they stood condemned before God. They had confused being right with being righteous.
Nothing much has changed. Your righteousness today has nothing to do with your rightness. It does not depend on the fact that you belong to the “right” church, believe the “right” things, read the “right” books, or understand prophecy the “right” way. These things have absolutely nothing to do with the righteousness by which you are accepted by God. In fact, during His ministry, Jesus commended the faith of people who knew the least – who technically were the least “right”! They were a Caananite woman and a Roman centurion.
When we understand that the righteousness by which we are justified can only stand outside of us – in the person and atoning work of Jesus Christ – then we are free to not confuse rightness with righteousness. And when understand that, even our “rightness” is touched by deep humility and grace.
By all means be right, but learn first what it really means to be righteous!