Righteousness is mentioned 540 times in the Bible and over two hundred times in the Old Testament alone. But, what is righteousness? The word can have a stiff, or even intimidating, connotation. However, the biblical definition of righteousness couldn’t be further from the truth! There are several exciting and practical ways we can live righteously through our work and financial stewardship.
In this blog post, we’ll answer the question “what is righteousness?” and provide five ways you can apply the righteousness of God to your finances.
What is righteousness in the Bible?
Righteousness is a pretty near synonym to justice in the Bible. The Hebrew word for righteous is tsaddiqim, and it’s defined as “to be just; lawful.” Proverbs 11:10 says that, “When the righteous (tsaddiqim) prosper, the city rejoices.”
This is a curious statement. Why would an entire city rejoice at the prospering of a few righteous people? Because it means good things for them, too! Ultimately, the righteous are characterized by their altruistic nature and the actions they take to pursue justice.
In her book Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman quotes Reverend Tim Keller to further unpack the character of these “righteous” people: “The righteous in the book of Proverbs are by definition those who are willing to disadvantage themselves for the community while the wicked are those who put their own economic, social, and personal needs ahead of the needs of the community.”
Jesus’ life mirrored this kind of righteousness. If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, we have to remember that follow is a verb. Our commitment to the Christian faith requires actions that mirror those of Jesus—one who dedicated his life to “proclaim liberty to the captives,” “recover the sight of the blind,” “set at liberty those who are oppressed,” and “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
James 1:27 echoes this thought by noting that “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
Who is the righteousness of God?
If the definition of righteousness was overwhelming to you, I have some good news: we don’t have to be perfect. The burden of being perfectly righteous and servant hearted is not upon us. That’s because righteousness is not just about what you do. It’s about who you are in Christ.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Through Christ, we are the righteousness of God. The New Testament word for righteousness is dikaiosynē. It means “the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God.” We could never be the righteousness of God on our own, but Christ has made that possible. Before Jesus, righteousness required adherence to the law. However, through his death and resurrection on the cross, Jesus restored humanity to God.
“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:2
Now, we get to participate in the restoration of all things. A Jewish concept called tikkun olam provides an excellent framework for this restoration.
What is Tikkun Olam?
Tikkun Olam is a Jewish phrase that translates to “perfecting the world.” In the Jewish mindset, there isn’t a divide between work and worship. Rather, work is a vehicle for worshipping and giving honor to God. Similarly, the wealth you accrue from your work is a means through which you can participate in tikkun olam.
In his book, Jewish Wealth Revealed, Rabbi Celso Cukierkorn writes, “We perfect the world by using our God-given wealth to further God’s realm on this planet. So, what you see is that the Jewish people’s pursuit of wealth is often paired with the pursuit of charitable works, not only for selfish purposes.”
How to align the righteousness of God to your dreams:
The American Dream runs deep throughout our culture. However, how closely do you think the concept of the American Dream adheres to tikkun olam? At its core, the American Dream promises economic prosperity, upward mobility, and opportunity.
We should be grateful for the sacrifices people made to provide us those opportunities, as well as the systems we have in place to implement them. However, over time, the American Dream has become increasingly individualistic. People value wealth for the security it can provide themselves and their families, without considering the larger whole of society. In reality, the American Dream started out as a collectivist vision.
When the historian James Truslow Adams coined the phrase ‘The American Dream’ in 1931, he wasn’t referring to material prosperity. He wrote, “Not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
So, how do we get back to the original American Dream?
In order to replace our American Dream with God’s Dream, we have to be willing to be generous with our wealth. Jesus emphasized this point in a parable about a rich man who, having an abundance of grain, concluded that he should tear down his current barns and build larger ones for himself in their place.
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21)
If you’re willing to sacrifice your own dreams and wealth for God’s plans and purposes, you will receive infinitely more in return. It may be in the form of tangible wealth, but it may not. One thing is for sure–the treasure of the Kingdom is of much more value, and you won’t be disappointed. With that being said, here are 5 ways that you can pursue the righteousness of God with your finances.
How to pursue the righteousness of God with your finances:
Tithing is when you give 10% of your income to the local church or a different cause that God leads you to. Tithing is a great way to remind your soul of who your provider is. When you dedicate a portion of your income to the Kingdom, you affirm your financial partnership with God.
2. Microfinance Investments
Microfinance is a banking service provided to unemployed or low-income individuals who would otherwise have no access to financial services. When you participate in microfinance investing, your investment provides the financial capital microfinance banks need in order to conduct their business. You receive a return the same way that you would with any investment, and you simultaneously get to support a good cause!
The missional arm of WealthBuilders, Tricord, participates in microfinance in Uganda. Tricord provides business loans at a much lower interest rate than is available elsewhere in the country. This access to capital, as well as business training and corporate responsibility classes, enables our loan clients to get out of poverty and make a sustainable difference in their communities. It’s a step towards economic justice. You can become a Tricord investor and receive a 4-8% return on your investment!
3. Biblically Responsible Investing
Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI) considers the overall impact of a company or investment fund–not just its profit potential. BRI portfolios are formed with a biblical worldview, so they screen out investments that support or profit from things like pornography, abortion, alcohol, or gambling, for instances. And, they’re just as profitable!
Integrating your faith and finances is an excellent avenue for pursuing the righteousness of God because it ensures that your money contributes to justice. If you would like to invest with a biblical worldview, contact WealthBuilders Investment Services.
4. Start Kingdom-Minded Businesses
Business is a great way to generate influence and income for the Kingdom of God. There’s so much room for creativity here, so for the sake of brevity I’ll direct you to another blog if you’re interested in Christian business specifically.
5. Real Estate
In my opinion, real estate is the most efficient way to build wealth. Not only can that wealth be used to bring the righteousness of God into your sphere of influence; there are multiple ways to bless people through real estate itself! Creating a home for someone is a special thing: read this blog on 4 ways you can bless people through investment properties to learn more.
We hope this blog has helped you find some answers to the question ‘What is righteousness?” We would love feedback! What have you learned about the righteousness of God, and how can we practically live out his justice?