“The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” Psalm i, 3b, 4a.
Today’s “wise” people might claim that they have abolished moral categories such as ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ Everything is right in their eyes. They might proclaim that it is offensive to classify people using black and white categories, such as “righteous” or “wicked.” Everyone is good and is entitled to success and happiness, they say. If things go wrong with someone, they do not see any need for an introspection. This is because they do not believe that a person’s attitude towards God can have any significant effect on his/her fortunes.
The first psalm offers a different perspective. King David sang about the blessedness of the righteous and the misery of the wicked. He knew of no other category such as the “fairly-religious” or the “not-so-wicked.” Every soul on earth is either righteous in God’s sight or is wicked. Although such a sharp distinction can be a scary one, David was quite sure that he belonged to the camp of the righteous.
The Bible is clear on this: no person can become ‘righteous’ by doing good deeds. This is because our good deeds do not erase our sins or bad deeds. Therefore, to become righteous, God has to give us a fresh start in life by forgiving our sins. This new start is available to all who trust in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. All who reject God’s way of salvation in Jesus Christ continue to wallow in sin and misery.
Once God declares us righteous, we need to live in accordance with God’s demands. This too is done by God’s help and not by our strength. The righteous person is therefore a forgiven sinner who resolutely departs from evil in order to do what is right in the sight of God. He is aided in this effort by his persistent contemplation of God’s word day and night.
The righteous person’s diligence and self-discipline might seem to be foolish in the eyes of the world. He may be branded as a religious, intolerant, fanatic. His spiritual disciplines may be trashedas “spiritual excesses” by the wicked and by those who pretend to be righteous. The righteous man’s humiliation will not last long. There’s a God in Heaven who monitors each person’s life to give him according to the works of his hands and the intentions of his heart. A season of testing is all it takes to reveal who’s who. While the righteous will flourish like a tree planted by the waters, the wicked will be blown away as chaff in the wind.
Indeed, it pays to be righteous, God-fearing, and self-disciplined. Even if no one notices your piety, there’s a God who sees everything. He will reward you openly if you are faithful to Him. When the going gets tough, the righteous keep going!