I recently re-read chapter 11. After reading it a few times, I started to realize it was laced with the word ‘righteous’ or ‘righteousness’ – at least a dozen times. Righteous is one of those biblical terms we often read without thinking about its meaning. The dictionary definition points to a connection with morality, fitting the common definition we hear in sermons which in our minds translates into ‘right living.’ ‘Right living’ smacks of the Pharisaical moralism of Jesus' day that has managed to infiltrate cultural Christianity of today. Since the word appeared so often in Proverbs, I figured I better investigate.
Working from a Hebrew lexicon and David Hubbard’s (2004) commentary on Proverbs, I discovered a couple interesting things:
- The root Hebrew word for righteous and righteousness (Sedeq) speaks of loyal, reliable conduct based on a commitment to God and to his covenant (commitment) to humanity.
- Sedeq is a term of relationship describing a desire to live a life pleasing to God and a desire to live a life fitting to the members of God's family.
Simply stated, God is the righteous one and human righteousness is therefore a desire, a willingness to behave toward God and his people with the same care, compassion, and integrity that the righteous God has shown us.
To me, this is freeing. Righteousness isn’t about getting it right, but rather a desire and a willingness to behave with care, compassion, and integrity. When we invite people to be Young Life leaders with us, our ‘leadership covenant’ of sorts focuses more on their willingness – a willingness to grow in their relationship with Jesus; a willingness to learn to love kids; a willingness to learn to walk into the world of kids, a willingness to live a life that’s not confusing to kids, etc. If they are willing, we can do a lot with that.
I'm thinking God isn’t looking for people to get it right. He’s looking for willing people. God can do a lot with willing people.
Hubbard, David. (2004). Proverbs:15 (The Preacher's Commentary). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.