The Wrong Kind of Righteousness

Scripture: Romans 10:1-4

One of the prevailing ideas in our culture is that God’s primary desire for each of us is to “be a good person.” If we treat others with dignity, help someone else in need, and show a little love every now and then, God is pleased and we are assured a place in heaven.

While it is good to be a good person and do all things that are described, the problem is with the last statement. Setting aside the subjective nature of the phrase “be a good person,” the notion here is that God’s pleasure and our salvation is dictated by our behavior.

This is fine for the days where I am killing it (which are few and far between), but what happens on the days where I go from one screw up to the next?

Paul talks about how passionate the Israelites were for God. This passion led them to strive to be good people because they believed that is what God wanted.  They were seeking a righteousness attained under their own power to prove their love and devotion to God.

What they failed to realize is that there was no good that was good enough. There was no righteousness they could have achieved that was comparable to the righteousness of God. So when Christ came and proclaimed a fulfillment of the Law, it was blasphemy to those seeking to achieve that fulfillment on their own.

Whether we realize it or not, we seek after this wrong kind of righteousness in our own striving for personal purity, religious duty, and the right kind of worship. We lack the knowledge of God’s righteousness, because if we truly knew how righteous God was, we would fall on our knees, throw up our hands, and beg for mercy.

Even that is unnecessary, however, because the mercy we would beg for has already been granted to us in Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and grants us the His righteousness so that we no longer have to strive for it on our own.

I have heard it referred to this way: Say you are swimming in a lake, trying to get to shore, but the shoreline is a vast distance away and you find yourself fading. As you struggle to keep your head above water, all of a sudden, a lifeguard is present. Do you fight him off, wanting to prove you have the strength to make it? Or do you go limp, float on your back, and allow him to swim you to shore?

Jesus is never weary of carrying you and your burdens. His strength is sufficient in your weakness, His righteousness is the right kind, and it has been extended to include you.


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