The Right Kind of Righteousness: Blessed by God

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. – Psalms 5:11-12 (NIV)

It is clear that the righteous are righteous because of who they put their trust in – who they worship.  Our righteousness will never get us where we need to be in this life or the life to come.  As God’s children through the blood of Christ, we have a righteousness not our own, but there is a difference between having it and walking in it.  The passage above is referring to those who are walking in righteousness and some of the results.

This is not the only passage that describes the righteous as blessed or favored.  It is a theme in the Psalms and prophetic writings.  God blesses His righteous ones.  I don’t believe that God is waiting for us to be righteous in order to bless us, but that He has made it so that walking in His righteousness leads us to His blessings.  I believe that walking in His righteousness puts us in the safe place of His favor.

Imagine you are in a desert and someone brings you a glass of water.  It tastes amazing, but the person says that if you want to have as much water as you need, you have to walk across the desert and over the mountains.  You could just stay in the desert and ask the messenger to keep bringing the little doses of water, or you could go to the place where the water is plentiful.  God sends His blessings into our desert with an invitation to place of plenty, but we have to walk there.

Let me be clear that I don’t equate blessing with money or things.  For some, money or objects would become a stumbling block.  It is not getting what we want when we want it because we deserve it.  God’s blessing is us having exactly what we need when we need it with the full knowledge that we do not deserve it.  This is the place that walking in righteousness will lead us.

The Right Kind of Righteousness

Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? – Job 4:17 (NIV)

Righteousness is talked about often in scripture.  Men have written about the righteous God, His righteous people and the righteousness that comes through faith.  God has given us His righteousness through His Son and empowered us toward righteousness through the Holy Spirit.  Righteousness is very much the product of God changing His people.  But it is easy to get righteousness wrong.  When we start deciding what is righteous and not, when we start categorizing who is or isn’t righteous, we are heading down a bad road with a bad end.

In this next series, I am going to be exploring the acts, words and attitudes defined as righteous in Scripture so we can start testing ourselves against the Word and look for places we need God’s discipline to transform us.  I have been challenged more than once in my life, that there is a difference between being right and being righteous.  I have also been challenged to stop defining righteousness by some cultural perspective or worldview, and instead ask God to help me view my world through His righteousness and help bring me in line with it.

I hope that this exploration of God’s righteousness becoming our righteousness is a blessing to you and will challenge us to live transformed lives.


Gardening Tips: No Need for Seed

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written:

“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. – 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (NIV)

Unlike those who depend on the harvest for their livelihood, we get to give ours away.  We don’t depend on storehouses where moth and rust destroy, but the storehouses of heaven.  But it is too easy in our self-centered society, to keep things for ourselves.  There has recently been much discontent among some in the United States about the inequity wealth.  They feel that somehow they have been cheated or robbed, but at the core, they believe they should have what someone else has; they are greedy.  They fall in the same trespass they judge others for and are oblivious to the irony.

This world would be a better place if we spent less time getting for ourselves and more time giving of ourselves.  Our neighborhoods and families would be all the more blessed for our willingness to give to the needs of others.  But the keys are laid out clearly in the passage above: it is a personal choice, done with confidence and without outside coercion.  Giving should be a reaction to God’s goodness to us and our giving will increase with our understanding of His goodness.

Giving, generosity, charity – they are certainly attributes of the followers of Christ, but it isn’t just what we do, but why we do it and how we do it.  We need to be motivated by the right reasons to do the righteous things.  There needs to be purpose and will behind our giving; first God’s and then ours coming in line to partner in generosity to those in need.  Too much is given to fulfill a sense of duty.  Too much is done to meet perceived obligations.  Too much is dedicated to avoiding guilt trips from those in authority.  As followers of Christ we are beholden to no one but God for what we give, but that is a far more demanding position to be in.

So if we put our giving in the hands of God, where does our confidence lie?  It lies in the promise that His storehouses never run out; that He will always provide all we need to do all He wants for everyone He loves.  The real truth is that the seeds were never ours to keep.  When we become selfish with the blessings God provides, we are thieves and robbers, stealing the blessings from others.  Let us give because we have nothing to lose.  Let us do for others because everything has already been accomplished for us through Christ.  Let us be used by God to disperse His blessings.

Lord, help me to live a generous life in light of Your gracious blessings.  May I be used by You to bless others.  Give me eyes to see where it is You would have me give and keep me rooted in Your will.  Amen.


Gardening Tips: Fallow Ground

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. – Exodus 23:10-11 (NRSV)

In the years before chemical fertilizers and horticultural sciences, it was common practice to let fields rest so that the soil could replenish and recover.  There are still many places that rotate their crops from field to field so that each crop is getting the nutrients needed for a good harvest.  This is something God has wired into us; a need for rest to replenish and restore. For the people of Israel it was a necessary and vital part of their culture; for us it is a necessary and vital part of our spiritual growth and health.

We used planters this year for growing most of our garden.  We used some of the same soil we did the last two years and thought it would be enough to mix in some compost, but we had to use far more fertilizer than normal to keep our garden going.  The soil we used was tired.  It knew it, but we did not.  As believers we need to be attentive to the soil of our hearts to know when it needs to rest, replenish and restore.

One of the most important ways to practice this is holding to a weekly Sabbath.  This is certainly any area of improvement needed for me, but I believe it is endemic to our current American culture.  We have sleep aids, technology that keeps us constantly connected and entertainment that draws us away from rest to busyness.  We need to overcome our culture and claim the rest that God has prepared for us.  We need to make holy for ourselves what God has said is holy.

Rest is not easy for most of us.  It is a discipline because we can always think of something we could or “should” be doing.  This is the handiwork of the enemy and a broken world.  There is never anything more important than doing the will of God and the Sabbath sits firmly in the center of His will.  It is the practice of the Sabbath that prepares our hearts for the fresh crop, for new seed, for the tiller in the hand of God preparing our hearts for the next season.

Lord, help us be a people of the Sabbath, resting in Your presence and power.  Let us cast aside every care and worry, trusting wholly in You to provide all we need.  You are the Lord of the harvest, but also the Lord of the Sabbath and we want to be Your subjects on that day.  Amen.