What is Righteousness?
The Greek word that we translate as righteous is dike (pronounced, dee-kay). And while the ancient Greek meaning was tendency, the use of this word in the Bible implies justice and conformance to established standards. Justice means doing the right thing; and conformance to established standards (in the Bible) refers to following the ways of God. So, the word righteous can also be translated as just, since righteousness is so closely tied to justice.
Here are a few conclusions about what the Bible says is righteousness, and the scriptures from which these conclusions have been drawn:
If you really want to be righteous, you can be – Matthew 5:6, ‘Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blest because they will be satisfied.’
If you flaunt your righteousness, you won’t receive a reward – Matthew 6:1 ‘Be careful not to do righteous things in front of men so they can see what you are doing. Otherwise, you won’t have a reward with your Father in heaven.’
Righteousness involves living for God’s Kingdom – Matthew 6:33, ‘[If you] put the Kingdom and righteousness in first place, then all these [other] things will be given to you.’
The things you do prove whether you are righteous – Matthew 11:19, ‘Wisdom is proven righteous by the things it does.’
The things that you say prove whether you are righteous – Romans 3:4, ‘Your words can prove you righteous, and you can win when you’re being judged.’
Someone who deliberately misleads other people can never be found righteous – Matthew 12:36, ‘I tell you that everything people say to mislead others, they will have to answer for on the Judgment Day.’
Immoral, unclean, and greedy people will not be found righteous – Ephesians 5:5, ‘All those who are immoral, unclean, and greedy (which really amounts to being an idol worshiper) won’t have any inheritance in the Kingdom of God and the Anointed One.’
To be counted righteous, you must treat other righteous people very well – Matthew 25:37-40, ‘Then the righteous will ask, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison, and come to you? And the king will say to them, I tell you the truth, when you did it for one of the least of these my brothers, you did it for me.’
Righteous people are at peace with others – James 3:18, ‘The seeds of the fruit of righteousness are planted in peace by those who are making peace.’
You have to be an honest judge to be found righteous – John 7:24, ‘Quit judging from the way things look on the surface; judge righteously!’
Righteousness involves standing up for right things, even if that invites persecution – Acts 4:19, 20, ‘If it’s righteous in God’s eyes to listen to you instead of to God, judge for yourselves. But we can’t stop talking about the things we’ve seen and heard.’
A righteous person has faith in God and His promises – Romans 3:28. ‘We believe that a man is called righteous due to his faith, so he doesn’t have to follow the Law.’
True righteousness requires more than just faith – James 2: 24, ‘A man is called righteous by the things he does, not just by his faith.’
To be counted as righteous, you can’t be immoral or continue in a sinful course – Romans 6:12-14 ‘As the result, don’t allow sin to rule your mortal bodies and don’t obey its desires. Nor should you offer your body parts as unrighteous weapons of sin. Rather, offer yourselves to God as someone who has been raised from the dead, and [offer] your body parts to God as weapons of righteousness. So, sin must not be your master, because you aren’t under Law, but under [God’s] loving kindness.’
Most people in the world aren’t considered righteous – 1 Corinthians 6:1, 2, ‘Would any of you who think you have been [wronged] by another dare to take it to court [to be tried by] unrighteous men, rather than by the Holy Ones?’
Although faith is required to prove ourselves righteous, speaking about what we believe is what saves us – Romans 10:10 ‘It is this belief in your heart that makes you righteous, but it’s your mouth, when it confesses this, that brings salvation.’
If you aren’t severely persecuted for being righteous, you won’t be accepted in God’s Kingdom – Matthew 5:10, ‘Those who have been persecuted for doing what is right are blest, because the Kingdom of the Heavens belongs to them.’
Also, to see what the Bible says about specific matters having to do with sexual relationships, see the linked document Christian Morality.