In the first full chapter of King Solomon’s sayings, Solomon focuses on the many benefits of being righteous. Because it shows up so often in this chapter (12 times!), as well as the rest of the book, I want to take a look at what exactly “righteous” means. This is a word that is heavily used in Christian conversations, almost to the point of losing its meaning and becoming an unreachable standard. When I looked up the definition, the quick Google search returned two options — “morally right or justifiable; virtuous” (like righteous indignation), or “very good; excellent” (like righteous bread pudding). While I enjoy imagining Matthew McConaughey complimenting someone’s bread pudding in such a way, I feel as if Solomon more likely intended the first use of the word when he wrote to his audience.
I think it’s important to point out that we humans are not just naturally righteous in all things. Instead, the final half of the word, -eous, indicates that we are composed and built up, piece after piece, by the right decisions and actions and thoughts that we choose each day. God doesn’t expect us to be wholly perfect — in fact, He knows we can’t be perfect on our own — but He expects us to make choices that are justifiable in the courtroom of Heaven, where Jesus is our advocate and God is our judge. When we make those choices, we’re promised blessings on Earth even before our eventual reward.
Verses 10-11: “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy. Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.“
Verse 19: “Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death.”
Verse 27: “Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it.”