Garry spoke from Matthew 5:6 last night, continuing his series on the Beatitudes which describe the characteristics God wants His children to have if we are to be God’s heroes.

The word ‘righteousness’ used to describe a straight or true lance which could be depended opon. From this, the idea of being ‘upright’ or morally good came to be understood. Righteousness simply means doing the right thing.

Righteousness is at the very heart of God’s nature and therefore is the motivator to His actions. He loves righteousness and justice (Ps 33:5) and these things are the foundations of His throne (Ps 97:1-2). In Isaiah 59:15-17, we see how God’s righteousness motivated Him to do the right thing and take action to save, since there was no person righteous enough to work salvation for us. Christ came to save us because it was the right thing to do. Righteousness is His belt (Is 11:1-5), the thing that becomes a driving force.

We often find it hard to do the right thing. We might want to do the right thing, but the personal cost of this sometimes deters us. But we need to let righteousness burn within us.

God can get, does get, has been and will be at times in the future, angry. In the commissioning of Moses, where God’s patience gives Moses all the signs he could hope for, God’s anger burned when the real reason for the reluctance is exposed: Moses did not want to go; he did not want to obey God. For forty years, God was angry with the generation that refused to believe Him as they wandered in the wilderness (Ps 95:7-11). Jesus was angry with the Pharisees who were more concerned with trying to trip Him up than see a man healed (Mark 3:1-6). God is not easily angered, however. He is slow to anger, abounding in love and compassion (see 1 Cor 13:1-5). Our anger is often motivated by personal hurt or offence. Jesus did not get angry when He was personally attacked, but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. He did get angry on behalf of others when He saw injustice being done.

Paul reminds us that ‘in your anger, do not sin.’ (Eph 4:25-32) James, too, distinguishes between man’s anger (which does not produce the righteousness God desires) and God’s anger (James 1:19-21). Nonetheless, there are times when injustice and suffering should rouse us to anger because we long for the right thing to be done. We are made in God’s image and therefore His love of righteousness is ultimately at our heart. The kingdom of God, ultimately, is all about righteousness (Rom 14:17).

Righteousness will, eventually, come (see Rev 6:9-11). In the meantime, we need to crave for, strain for and work for righteousness. God’s people need to do the right thing, for no other reason than it is the right thing. We discover what the ‘right thing’ is by reading the Word and listening to the Spirit.