Righteousness Isn’t About Being Right.

angry-woman-arms-crossed-shutterstockI think why I didn’t pursue righteousness is because I was afraid it would make me stuffy.  You know the guy at the party with his arms crossed while standing in the corner that thinks he’s better than everyone else and wants them all to know it?  That guy fit my definition of righteousness and I wasn’t buying it.

Also, the righteousness I thought of was neat and tidy.  My Sunday school logic told me the righteous are blessed and the unrighteous are not and that just doesn’t hold up if you live on this planet for longer than a day.  Religious people that are too sure of themselves kind of piss me off.  Life is messier than that, and I knew it.  To me, righteousness was perfection and certainty.  That is, until I read about Job.

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. -Job 1:1

See, Job was about as righteous as it got.  Later, God even used him as his trophy of sorts to show off to satan.  If there was anyone in the world that fit the definition of righteous, it was good ‘ol Job.  However, this is where it gets tricky.

When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. -Job 1:5

Why was Job continually making sacrifices if he was perfect and certain?  Believe me, he wasn’t just burning those animals for his kiddos.  He made this his “regular custom” because the most righteous guy on the planet wasn’t always right.  So maybe God’s definition of righteousness is different than mine?

If you know the book of Job at all, you know it’s a book about suffering and the thing about suffering is it comes with loose ends.  Suffering inevitably leaves us with unanswered questions,  When A + B doesn’t equal C or we wonder why a good God could allow such pain we are left with uncertainty.  While religion boasts of certainty, God never did.  Instead, God offers a relationship and that involves trust.  Righteousness is not about being certain in my formula, it’s about trusting in God when life doesn’t add up.  My favorite declaration of trust from Job is this:

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; -Job 13:5

What a powerful statement of trust.  However, this kind of trust didn’t just happen overnight.  Ask any couple out there and they will assure you trust is not microwavable, it takes time.  Job developed this trust by coming to God over and over again with his pain and questions.  He pursues God throughout the whole story and comes out the other end different.  He changes.  Perhaps God defines righteousness as our continual pursuit of him rather than a false certainty that we’ve already arrived.  Righteousness is not perfection, it is pursuing God in our pain and allowing him to change us along the way.

Now I know why God bragged about Job.  His trust without certainty and his pursuit in imperfection is inspiring.
Where will you trust God more today?
How will you pursue God this evening?
May you be changed along the way.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

-Isaiah 58:8-9