Bible Topics In The Christian Library
Chapter 5
Living Righteously

Solomon compared wisdom to light:

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life (Proverbs 6:23; RSV).

I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness (Ecclesiastes 2:13; KJV).

The great value of light is that it permits intelligent behavior. There is no one more helpless than someone lost in a dark, strange place. No matter how "free" from restriction he may be, he is still a slave to the darkness. Jesus spoke of the relationship between the light of truth, and freedom when He said: you will know the truth and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32; RSV).
The Journey

Solomon often referred to life as a kind of journey ("way," "path"). And wisdom, Solomon said, provides light for our journey through life. It will direct a man’s way, enabling him to enjoy the beauty of the scenery while guiding him away from its dangers. Our knowledge and understanding are like headlights that we use as we travel through this dark world. Here are examples.

My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path (Proverbs 1:15; KJV).

[the Lord is] guarding the paths of justice (Proverbs 2:8; RSV).

Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path (Proverbs 2:9; RSV).

Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness (Proverbs 2:13; KJV).

That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths off the righteous (Proverbs 2:20; KJV).

Then shalt thou walk in thy way securely, and thy foot shall not stumble (Proverbs 3:23; ASV).

On the way of wisdom I direct you, I lead you on straightforward paths. When you walk, your step will not be impeded, and should you run, you will not stumble (Proverbs 4:11, 12; NAB).

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble (Proverbs 4:18, 19; RSV).

I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment (Proverbs 8:20; KJV).

Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding (Proverbs 9:6; KJV).

He that walketh uprightly walketh surely (Proverbs 10:9; KJV).

In the way or righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death (Proverbs 12:28; IWV).

He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the Lord (Proverbs 14:2; KJV).

A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps (Proverbs 16:9; KJV).

Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward (Proverbs 22:5; KJV).

Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way (Proverbs 23:19; KJV).

Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness (Proverbs 28:6; KJV).

He who misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit (Proverbs 28:10; RSV).

Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once (Proverbs 28:18; KJV).

If life is like a journey, then being righteous means following the road, staying on the correct route—the path of wisdom. Righteousness means using the light of knowledge and understanding to walk in the good way that the Lord has chosen for us. When we drive on a highway we can travel at high speed in relative comfort and security if we are careful to stay with in our bounds. Death and destruction result from erratic, reckless driving—or careless living. Thus, Solomon urged caution, saying, Let your eyes look directly forward and your gaze be straight before you. Take heed to the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil (Proverbs 4:25-27; RSV).

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25; KJV).

In sum: Life is like a journey in the dark, and our wisdom lights the way.
The Fruits of Righteousness

Every right way is contained within the universal wisdom of God; and righteousness is simply the process of manifesting or fulfilling his divine plans. Thus it is through righteousness that all the blessings of wisdom become realized. For this reason the many benefits of righteousness, stated by Solomon, are virtually identical to the many blessings of wisdom he gave.

He said righteousness promotes a long life of growth and progress whose work continues to bear fruit even after death.

For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it (Proverbs 2:21; KJV).

the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day (Proverbs 4:18; RSV).

The memory of the righteous continues a blessing (ProverbslO:7; MLB).

the righteous is established for ever (Proverbs 10:25; RSV).

The fear of the Lord prolongs life (Proverbs 10:27; RSV).

righteousness keeps a man safe from death (Proverbs 11:4; BAS).

Surely righteousness brings life (Proverbs 11:19; MLB).

the righteous shall flourish as a branch (Proverbs 11:28; KJV).

the house of the righteous shall stand (Proverbs 12:7; KJV).

Life is in the way of the righteous, a pathway where there is no death (Proverbs 12:28; MLB).

the upright will be rewarded with good (Proverbs 13:21; BAS).

A righteous man that walketh in his integrity, blessed are his children after him (Proverbs 20:7; ASV).

He that pursueth righteousness and lovingkindness shall find life (Proverbs 21:21; RHM).

A righteous life is a joyful life. The hope of the righteous shall be gladness (Proverbs 10:28; KJV).

The light of the righteous rejoiceth (Proverbs 13:9; KJV).

for those purposing peace there is joy (Proverbs 12:?0; BAS).

the righteous doth sing and rejoice (Proverbs 29:6; KJV).

Right living, he said, produces good things to enjoy. he [the Lord) blesseth the habitation of the just (Proverbs 3:S3; KJV).

Blessings are upon the head of the just (Proverbs 10:6; KJV).

The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it (Proverbs 10:22; KJV).

the desire of the righteous shall be granted (Proverbs 10:24; KJV).

to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward (Proverbs 11:18; KJV).

A good man shall leave an inheritance to his children (Proverbs 13:22; LXX).

The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul (Proverbs 13:25; KJV).

the dwelling of the upright shall prosper (Proverbs 14:11; ABPS).

In the house of the righteous is much treasure (Proverbs 15:6; KJV).

the blameless will have a goodly inheritance (Proverbs 28:10; RSV).

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord always (Proverbs 28:14: RSV).

Righteousness gives strength and favor. The way of the Lord is strength to the upright (Proverbs 10:29; KJV).

A good man obtaineth favour of the Lord (Proverbs 12:2; KJV).

He that pursueth righteousness and lovingkindness shall find honour (Proverbs 21:21; RHIM).

Godly living promotes peace and safety. Whoso walketh uprightly, walketh securely (Proverbs 10:9; SPRL).

the seed of the righteous shall be delivered (Proverbs 11:21; KJV).

When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7; KJV).

he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul (Proverbs 16:17; KJV).

He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his soul (Proverbs 19:16; ASV).

Through righteousness comes lasting security. The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry (Proverbs 10:3; RSV).

The righteous shall never be removed (Proverbs 10:30; KJV).

the root of the righteous shall not be moved (Proverbs 12:3; KJV).

No ill befalls the righteous (Proverbs 12:21; RSV).

Righteousness rescues us from crisis. righteousness delivereth from death (Proverbs 10:2; KJV).

The righteous is delivered out of trouble (Proverbs 11:8; KJV).

the just shall come out of trouble (Proverbs 12:13; KJV).

In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge (Proverbs 14:26; KJV).

The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe (Proverbs 18:10; KJV).

Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved (Proverbs 28:18; KJV).

Since the universal plans of the Lord include all the consequences of right living, therefore, the laws of nature insure blessings for righteousness. Indeed, the very actions of the godly initiate a natural sequence of events designed by the Lord to return to them the good they perform—a rebound effect intended to reward their efforts. The integrity of the upright guides them (Proverbs 11:3; RSV).

The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight (Proverbs 11:5; RSV).

The righteousness of the upright delivers them (Proverbs 11:6; MLB).

The merciful man doeth good to his own soul (Proverbs 11:17; KJV).

the work of a man's hands will come back to him (Proverbs 12:14; MLB).

Righteousness guards him whose way is upright (Proverbs 13:6; RSV).

the good man gets satisfaction from his [ways] (Proverbs 14:14; MLB).

mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good (Proverbs 14:22; KJV).

the righteous finds refuge through his integrity (Proverbs 14:32; RSV).

He that pursueth righteousness and lovingkindness shall find righteousness (Proverbs 21:21; RHM).

All of these benefits—long life, prosperity, good reputation, security, and health—are natural consequences of right living. The righteous are the good citizens of the world. They earn their wages; they deserve the respect of their friends and neighbors; they enjoy the protection of the law; they maintain both their environment and their own bodies; all because of their manner of living. Moreover, they leave the world a better place.

Nevertheless, righteousness will not keep us from sorrow and pain because this is a world permeated with evil. Solomon and his father, David, admitted this when they said:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all (Psalms 34:19; RSV).

For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again; but the wicked are overthrown by calamity (Proverbs 24:16; RSV).

Moreover, the world's injustice tends to defeat the Lord's intention that righteousness be properly rewarded. Too often the Lord gives but the wicked take away. For example, many righteous men are kept poor because of oppression. The fellow ground of the poor yields much food, but it is swept away through injustice (Proverbs 13:23; RSV). And our righteousness may even cost us our lives here on earth. All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness (Ecclesiastes 7:15; KJV). Death was, in fact, the fate of Jesus and His apostles. But the Lord has a better life prepared for all the godly, no matter what happens here under the sun.

In sum: Righteousness is the application of wisdom; which means the gifts of wisdom become realized through right living. Thus, the benefits of righteousness are the blessings of wisdom, and they include long life, health, prosperity, good reputation, security, and the Lord's favor.

The Qualities of the Righteous

Righteousness depends partly upon wisdom. We cannot live and act right if we do not know what is right. Just as a tornado passing through a lumberyard cannot build a house, so ignorance cannot create good. Neither random action nor impulsive living produce constructive human enterprise. Therefore, the righteous seek to learn, and the Lord adequately supplies them.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright (Proverbs 2:6, 7; RSV).

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (Proverbs 9:9; KJV).

through knowledge shall the just be delivered (Proverbs 11:9; KJV).

For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy (Ecclesiastes 2:26; KJV).

Solomon emphasized that the very purpose of educating our minds is to enable us to live fruitful lives. It equips us to continue the creation process—to produce good as the Lord does. But being righteous involves more than becoming wise. Wisdom is necessary but not sufficient for righteousness. There is another vital element. We must turn to Paul to learn more about it. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (l Corinthians 13:1-3; RSV). We may have supreme skill with words; we may have all wisdom and all faith; and we may even make the ultimate sacrifice of giving up everything, including our lives. Yet, what does all this accomplish? All of these qualities are highly desirable if they lead to some good result, but in themselves they produce nothing. Moreover, God has the power to create a machine capable of magnificent speech, knowledge, faithful obedience, and total self-sacrifice. Yet it would be only a machine deserving no special reward. Paul continued, saying, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; NIV). That critical element required to make wisdom (or words or faith or self-sacrifice) worth something is love. Love in a primitive form is simply an attraction or desire for something. Love in its most exalted form seeks harmony, unity, and constructive peace—agape love. This kind of love is the force that works with wisdom to generate good. Notice how similar in basic nature it is to wisdom, that Grand Lady that Solomon described. It contains no evil. It is not jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, or resentful. Neither does it rejoice in wrong. On the contrary, it rejoices in right. Love seeks to promote only goodness and righteousness. It is patient and kind. It always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. It is that quality of mind that permits wisdom to be fulfilled. John told how great it is when he said, God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4:16; RSV). Having the highest form of love—agape love—means to abide in God. Therefore, Solomon advised trust in the Lord: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine (Proverbs 3:5-10; KJV).

The way of the Lord is strength to the upright (Proverbs 10:29; KJV).

He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the Lord (Proverbs 14:2; KJV).

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established (Proverbs 16:3; KJV).

He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he (Proverbs 16:20; KJV).

The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe (Proverbs 18:10; KJV).

Agur agreed, saying: [God] is a shield unto them that put their trust in him (Proverbs 30:5; KJV). As individuals we are small and insignificant in this vast and complicated universe. Our insight and our foresight are exceedingly limited. Of necessity we must rely a great deal upon our trust in the reliability of other men and the things in our world. One benefit of knowledge is that it can increase our confidence in the Lord and His ways. We can increasingly recognize that his ways are the ways of victory because his wisdom enables us to ultimately succeed in our struggles. Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips. That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee (Proverbs 22:17-19; KSV). With this kind of trust, the righteous have confidence. The fear of the Lord gives life; and he who has it will have need of nothing, no evil will come his way (Proverbs 19:23; BAS).

the righteous are bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1; KJV).

he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat (Proverbs 28:25; KJV).

The fear of man lays a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord is safe (Proverbs 29:25; RSV).

And the Lord has confidence in the righteous. Referring to Him, Solomon said, the upright are in his confidence (Proverbs 3:32; RSV).

such as are upright in their way are his delight (Proverbs 11:20; KJV).

the prayer of the upright is his delight (Proverbs 15:8; KJV).

he loveth him that followeth after righteousness (Proverbs 15:9; KJV).

he heareth the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29; KJV).

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to Jehovah than sacrifice (Proverbs 21:3; ASV).

With that mutual trust the Lord permits us to enjoy increasingly greater freedom to unleash our creative potential. But being irresponsible limits our freedom. As we do not allow young children or drunks to drive automobiles, neither will the Lord free us beyond our level of maturity. As we mature in righteousness, we gain freedom as Jesus said, If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:31; RSV). And Paul wrote, For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1; RSV).

You, my friends, were called to be free men; only do not turn your freedom into license for your lower nature, but be servants to one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself." But if you go on fighting one another, tooth and nail, all you can expect is mutual destruction (Galatians 5:13-15; NEB).

The righteous are the Lord's obedient children in the world. We love him as the good Father he is and seek to imitate all the noble virtues of life personified by his Son Jesus: love, mercy, kindness, generosity, patience, humility, obedience, unselfishness, self-control, industriousness, etc. These are the qualities that build up and promote joy and peace. The righteous seek good even in their thoughts. The desire of the righteous is only good (Proverbs 11:23; KJV).

He who eagerly seeks what is good finds much favour (Proverbs 11:27; NEB).

The thoughts of the righteous are right (Proverbs 12:5; KJV).

The mind of the righteous ponders before answering (Proverbs 15:28; MLB).

as for the upright, he gives thought to his way (Proverbs 21:29; BAS).

They use their speech to promote good. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life (Proverbs 10:11; RSV).

The tongue of the just is as choice silver (Proverbs 10:20; KJV).

The lips of the righteous feed many (Proverbs 10:21; KJV).

The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom (Proverbs 10:31; KJV).

The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable (Proverbs 10:32; KJV).

the speech of the upright saves them (Proverbs 12:6; NAB).

the words of the pure are pleasant words (Proverbs 15:26; KJV).

Indeed they use all of their efforts to promote what is right and good. They plan good works themselves, and they support the good works of others. The labour of the righteous tendeth to life (Proverbs 10:16; KJV).

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of Life; and he that winneth souls is wise (Proverbs 11:30; KJV).

A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast (Proverbs 12:10; KJV).

the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit (Proverbs 12:12; KJV).

The righteous is a guide to his neighbor (Proverbs 12:26; ASV).

among the upright there is good will (Proverbs 14:9; RV).

the conduct of the pure is right (Proverbs 21:8; RSV).

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous (Proverbs 21:15; RSV).

those who seek the Lord understand it [justice] completely (Proverbs 28:5; RSV).

When the righteous triumph, there is great glory (Proverbs 28:12; ASV).

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice (Proverbs 29:2; KJV).

The just man has a care for the rights of the poor (Proverbs 29:7; NAB).

the upright plan how to protect him [the blameless man] (Proverbs 29:10; MOFFATT).

Like the Lord our eternal Father, the righteous hate evil and oppose it. A righteous man hates falsehood (Proverbs 13:5; RSV).

The highway of the upright is to depart from evil (Proverbs 16:17; KJV).

he that keepeth his soul shall be far from them [the perverse] (Proverbs 22:5; ASV).

those who convict the evildoer will fare well, and on them will come the blessing of prosperity (Proverbs 24:25; NAB).

such as keep the law contend with them (the wicked] (Proverbs 28:4; KJV).

An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous (Proverbs 29:27; RSV).

The above composite presents the qualities Solomon gave of the ideal righteous man. But, of course, growing in righteousness, like growing in wisdom, is a lifetime process. Even the noble Paul, near the end of his very godly life, said, if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on (Philippians 3:11, 12; RSV). And Solomon said: Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? (Proverbs 20:9; KJV).

For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not (Ecclesiastes 7:20; KJV).

Nevertheless, it is our duty to persevere in promoting the purity and wholesomeness of our minds because the mind is closest to the soul. Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23; RSV).

As in water face answers to face, so the mind of man reflects the man (Proverbs 27:19; RSV).

In sum: The righteous have a strong affection for the Lord and his noble ways, and so use both their minds and their bodies to carry out the Lord's plans to promote all the ways of godliness, and oppose all the ways of ungodliness.
Wise and Righteous

The righteous work at developing all aspects of their character because the well-developed righteous man must have a well developed intellect. Wise and righteous appear to be like two sides of one coin; two aspects of one general kind of man; he who trusts the Lord and loves his wisdom; then upon getting it, uses it to promote good in the world.

The perfect example of this wise-righteous combination is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The entire New Testament is a testimony of his nature; both his mind and his manner of living. And we are encouraged to imitate both. Speaking about fellow Christians, Paul said,

But we have the mind of Christ ( 1 Corinthians 2:16; RSV). And Peter said: For this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; RSV). An excellent example of a wise-righteous man in the Old Testament is the man Job whom the Lord described as the most righteous man on earth during his generation. At the time of his terrible persecution by Satan, Job was forced to defend himself against many false charges brought against him by, of all people, his good friends (being deluded by a false philosophy of life).

Here is how he described himself.

Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me; when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness; as I was in my autumn days, when the friendship of God was upon my tent; when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me; when my steps were washed with milk, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!

When I went out to the gate of the city, when I prepared my seat in the square, the young men saw me and withdrew, and the aged rose and stood; the princes refrained from talking, and laid their hand on their mouth; the voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.

When the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it approved; because I delivered the poor who cried, and the fatherless who had none to help him. The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know. I broke the fangs of the unrighteous, and made him drop his prey from his teeth.

Then I thought, "I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand, my roots spread out to the waters, with the dew all night on my branches, my glory fresh with me, and my bow ever new in my hand."

Men listened to me, and waited and kept silence for my counsel. After I spoke they did not speak again, and my word dropped upon them. They waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouths as for the spring rain. I smiled on them when they had no confidence; and the light of my countenance they did not cast down. I chose their way, and sat as chief, and I dwelt like a king among his troops, like one who comforts mourners. But now (Job 29:2-25; RSV).

Notice (1) all the good deeds he listed as evidence of his righteousness, (2) how awed people were of his wisdom and how they eagerly awaited his counsel, and (3) how much the Lord blessed him. Notice also God's compassion after his brief trial. And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before And after this Job lived a hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days (Job 42:10, 16, 17; RSV). In sum: Wisdom and righteousness are complimentary qualities that the Lord desires in every man.

Copyright 1997 by Walter L. Porter may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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