|Making First Things First
So many options! The reality of endless options faces most of us as believers on a daily basis, and the satisfaction, success and joy that we hope to experience is ultimately tied to the choices we make among the options that are before us. We carry the world in our hands through WiFi connectivity, instantly and constantly available to anyone, able to buy anything or see anything or hear anything we want to at the touch of a finger. We call it freedom of choice, but does it actually lead us to freedom?
Jesus, on the other hand, invites us to another choice, a narrower way – the option to seek success and joy on His terms. In Matthew 5:6, He uses the word “righteousness” to articulate the access point to satisfaction, success and joy from His perspective, the perspective of God’s Kingdom.
“Righteousness” is a difficult word, because it has come to mean a restricted, religiously narrow, and (by implication) boring view of life. For me, as a kid growing up in a religious home, “righteousness” simply meant not doing bad things, avoiding most activities that seemed fun or exciting, and it carried a connotation of restriction and boredom. Not a very inviting concept!
But I believe “righteousness” has gotten a very unfortunate and wrong reputation, because when we begin to examine the term from a Biblical basis, our perception changes to one that makes the pursuit of righteousness the most obvious and worthy pursuit imaginable. Let’s look at a couple of things:
In Psalm 45, which is a prophetic passage fulfilled in the person of Jesus, we’re told that the King, Jesus, loves righteousness and hates wickedness, and is therefore anointed with the oil of gladness above all His brothers. Get this: the love of righteousness is attached to the greatest possible joy!
In Matthew 5:16, Jesus says that hungering and thirsting after righteousness leads to ultimate satisfaction, the fulfillment of every human desire! In other words, focusing the most basic of human needs – hunger and thirst – on the pursuit of righteousness leads to complete satisfaction that cannot be found anywhere else, even if we keep trying (just ask Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones about that!).
One of Jesus’ most notable followers, a guy names Paul who wrote the Biblical letter to the Roman church, defined God’s Kingdom as “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Once again, the highest human desires – peace and joy – are associated with righteousness.
So, the question is, what is righteousness? Well, I believe it is the reality of being conformed to the way God designed each of us in the perfection of His plan. We’re told in Psalm 139 that each of us were “knit together in our mother’s womb” by the hand of God, and that His work concerning us is “marvelous”!
In other words, righteousness is much more than boring “good behavior.” It is the degree to which we come into alignment with how we were designed, agreeing with and pursuing God’s pattern for our lives which was formed in His mind before He created anything! There is no other identity or destiny for us than the one He has planned, and the choice to search for that reality is the most important choice we can make in the vast array of options that face us every day.
In order to know joy and peace, we must choose to make the first things our first priority. We’re told in Psalm 25:14 and in Isaiah 45:3 that there are secret things hidden in the heart of God concerning us, and that if we seek after Him, He will tell us the deepest truths about who we are and why we exist. Jesus said in Luke 10:42 that only one thing is necessary, and that is to sit at His feet and listen to what He says.
Jesus alone has words of life, and we will never find the fulfillment of our desires if we put secondary things ahead of listening to Him. He will speak to us about ourselves, our relationships, our purpose, our destiny, and how we can come into agreement and alignment with His wondrous design for our lives that is the only way to experience ultimate joy and peace.
The pursuit of righteousness through loving God and listening to Him is the most important choice we can make, today, tomorrow, and every day following. Go there, and be blessed!
Gary Wiens, 1/27/2017