When we look for the meaning of righteousness in the English dictionary then we find it as “the quality of being morally right or justifiable.” According to the world, being righteous means, being or behaving right according to our culture, tradition, worldly laws, and what feels morally good and unharmful.
But the Bible’s standard of righteousness is being right in the sight of God, whether it is by nature or by attitude or by action, or by word. God is holy, just, and righteous, it is an essential attribute of God.
Many people believe by living a good life and trying to do noble deeds, we can be called righteous. It might be true for worldly standards but in the spiritual realm, if a human tries to achieve righteousness by himself, he certainly fails because we humans cannot achieve righteousness on our own.
Why a man cannot achieve righteousness on his own?
Unfortunately, we all, as mankind, have sinned; thus we are fallen mankind. We cannot gain the place back we once lost in the Garden of Eden. No matter how much we try by our own ability, we cannot get it. Our Nobel or righteous deeds are “nothing but filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23 NLT).
Righteousness in the Old Testament
God gave the law which is the first five books of the Bible, also called as Torah, on mount Sinai so that people could know how to live righteously through obedience and how to live holy like their creator. But instead of following the law, they hardened their hearts and continually rebelled against God. People were unable to produce righteousness because men could not satisfy the requirements of the law and meet God’s standard of righteousness.
How can we attain righteousness?
When we were unable to gain righteousness by ourselves, God created a way for righteousness to be possible for all mankind. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Jesus is the only way and apart from Him, there is no other way. Today, we can attain righteousness only through getting cleansed of sin by Jesus’ blood which was shed on the cross and abiding in the Holy Spirit.
The Bible says God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Though Jesus was holy and pure, He became sin on the cross for us so that in Him we can be righteous. We were worthy to be punished but Jesus took that punishment upon Himself and saved us. Now God looks at us as if we have fulfilled every requirement of the law because Jesus fulfilled it on our behalf. Now those who believe in Him, can have salvation and are called children of God.
How do I seek His righteousness?
In the Bible, Jesus says “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33). Righteousness is not something that we men can attain, we read it above but why does Jesus say to seek it. Jesus didn’t mean that we should try to achieve or gain righteousness but He meant becoming more like Him or developing a Christlike character.
Righteousness is a gift from God to His children through our Saviour Jesus Christ. Now, we need to be more like God because we are His children. The Bible says “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). Seeking righteousness means giving up on sinful, worldly, and selfish desires which God hates and following the righteous and holy ways of God.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1).
“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10 NKJV).