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One of the greatest responsibilities we have as parents is to teach our kids how to live. From the moment our kids are born we begin the process of teaching, modeling, and reinforcing over and over again the most important lessons that they need to know to live the life the Lord has given to them. When you consider that the average person lives a little more than 70 years and that we only have about 18 years to teach our kids the most important lessons in life, then you can begin to feel the urgency that is called for. Added to this is the reality that once they enter school our kids will spend an increasing amount of time away from home, out from under our tutelage and guiding hand, then the urgency quotient rises exponentially. All things considered we must come to the conclusion that the time is now. There is no tomorrow. There is no time for an “I’ll-get-around-to-it-later” mentality. Our kids must learn these lessons, it is paramount to their survival, and we must teach them, model the lessons before them, and then reinforce the lessons over and over again.
I believe that most of us understand this even though we may not be as engaged in the teaching and modeling process as we should be. The real question that we need to address is, “What are the most important lessons that our kids need to thrive and to experience the fulfillment and peace that the Lord desires for them?” What are the most important lessons? That’s a great question. Should we spend our time and effort teaching them how to make a living or how to make a life? Should we make every sacrifice to teach our kids discipline? Discipline is a good thing, right? Sure it is, but is discipline the most important lesson that they need? Do we need to teach them a trade, a craft, a skill? Teach them how to make a living so they can pay their bills and enjoy the fruits of their labor? Being financially responsible is a good thing, but is making money really our primary focus? I don’t think so. Is telling the truth the most important lesson in life? You will never go wrong teaching your kids to tell the truth, just be sure that you tell the truth as well. How about teaching our kids to be generous? That’s a noble pursuit in life isn’t it? Sure it is, but is it the most important lesson, the foundational building block of life? What about “how to win friends and influence enemies?” The list could go on and on. How about…? I don’t know, you fill in the blank.
There are so many lessons that we could put into the core curriculum of preparing our kids for life, but I believe there is one lesson that encompasses all of the most important lessons that we could offer to our kids to help them become the young men and young women that God desires for them to become. What is the one lesson I’m talking about? Simply put, we must raise our kids in righteousness. We must teach them how to live a righteous life. We need to show them, by the way we live our own lives, what it means to live in right relationships with God and others.
For those of you who are looking for something concrete then you are probably disappointed in what I’ve just offered as the most important lesson in life. You were probably looking for a list of the top five “characteristics of a godly child” and lessons that you could systematically drill into your kids on a daily basis. Teaching our kids about righteousness, training our kids in righteousness, relating to them, and to those around us in a righteous way is something that calls for much more commitment, prayer, perseverance, and tenacity my friends.
Today, as we move into Proverbs 11, we can see Solomon’s desire to teach his son how to live life in a righteous manner. Take a look with me at Proverbs 11. I want to begin by looking at all of the verses in Proverbs 11 that include the word translated, “righteous.” The word means, “just, lawful, righteous (in conduct and character), or rightly related.” The word appears 206 times in the Old Testament and it is a very important word. The Holman Bible Dictionary describes the righteousness of God in this way.
The Hebrew mind did not understand righteousness to be an attribute of the divine, that is a characteristic of God’s nature. Rather, God’s righteousness is what God does in fulfillment of the terms of the covenant that God established with the chosen people, Israel. (Holman Bible Dictionary)
Whenever we talk about righteousness we must begin with God. If we fail to do this then we will discover that our definition of righteousness ends up being whatever we determine or feel to be “right.” The problem with this understanding of righteousness is that what we decide is right will always be what benefits us if we do not begin with the righteousness of God and the standards that He has set for us in relationship with Himself and with others. Let’s take a look at what Solomon has to teach us this morning in Proverbs 11. Let’s begin at verse 4.
4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. 5The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness. 6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires. 7 When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes; all he expected from his power comes to nothing. 8 The righteous man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead. 9 With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape. 10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy. (Proverbs 11:4-10 NIV)
We can hear in Solomon’s lesson some key components of the life of the righteous person. The righteous will be delivered from death. The relationships of the righteous will help them avoid the crooked way of life that causes the life of the wicked to unravel. The righteous will be delivered from evil desires. The wicked seeks to destroy his neighbor, but the righteous escape these snares because of the knowledge imparted by God. Last of all, as the righteous prosper and grow in righteousness, the entire city rejoices. Why? Because those who live in the city, those who know the righteous man or woman, are blessed by their life and the way they relate to others. Oh, we’re just getting started. Take a look at Proverbs 11:18-19 with me.
18 The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward. 19 The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death. (Proverbs 11:18-19 NIV)
The abundance of life, the fullness of life, is awaiting the person who sows righteously into the lives of others. Now jump down to Proverbs 11:21 and let’s read together.
21 Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free. (Proverbs 11:21 NIV)
It may appear that those who are crooks, those who try to take advantage of others, get off scott-free, but we need to be reminded that they will reap what they sow. On the other hand, those who live in righteousness will live in freedom. Our next verse is Proverbs 11:23.
23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath. (Proverbs 11:23 NIV)
The desires of the righteous end only in good because those who walk in righteousness live to bless those around them, not to please their own desires. Let’s keep rolling on. Go down to verse 28.
28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. (Proverbs 11:28 NIV)
Solomon teaches his son that those who lean upon their mountain of riches and material wealth will eventually fall, but the righteous will thrive, not just survive, but thrive because they are trusting in the One who is unshakable. Last of all take a look at verses 30-31 with me.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise. 31 If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner! (Proverbs 11:30-31 NIV)
Last week we learned that the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life; their words nourish and encourage those around them. Today we see another blessing of the righteous–they are a tree of life to those around them. The fruit of the righteous, their actions and all of their ways, brings nourishment and sustenance to those around them.
Are you starting to get the picture? Are you beginning to understand why lessons in righteousness are the fundamental and foundational lessons in all of life? I started off our time together this morning talking about the most important lessons our kids need for life, but don’t fool yourself–this is a lesson for all of us. Regardless of how young or old you are, this lesson is for you.
I mentioned to you earlier that if we want to know what righteousness looks like then we must look to God and not what society decides is good or noble or righteous. God, the way He interacts with His people, the way He behaves in relationship, is our standard of righteousness. Let me show you what I am talking about. In Deuteronomy 32:3-4 we get a clear picture.
3 I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! 4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 NIV)
Do you see more clearly now? God is faithful, He does no wrong, His works, the things He does, are perfect. Oh, God is good! He is worthy of our trust. Why? Because He is righteous, He is the embodiment of righteousness and it is evident in the way that He has dealt with us, His people.
David knew the righteousness of God. He was in a pit, but He says the righteous God heard his voice from the depths of the pit. Read along with me in Psalm 40.
1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. 4 Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.?5 Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. (Psalm 40:1-5 NIV)
I’m sure there is someone here this morning who can relate to what David is saying. You’ve found yourself in a pit; maybe you even dug that pit with your own hands. The walls of desperation were caving in on you and you felt all alone, helpless. You felt unworthy. You told yourself that there was nobody left who cared. You resigned yourself to your pit for the rest of your days. In a moment of desperation you cried out, “Lord, help me.” The angels of heaven grew silent. The Father’s ears perked up and He heard your voice. You know that you are only here this morning because He heard your voice. You are only out of the pit this morning because He entered your pit of hopelessness and sorrow; He cradled you in His tender arms, wiped the tears from your mud stained face, and carried you out. Oh, isn’t He good? Isn’t He righteous!
Jeremiah knew all about pits. The people that God has called him to minister to hated him and in Jeremiah 38 they put him in a musty old cistern to die. The people who did it thought they didn’t need God. They were doing well. Jeremiah was a nuisance. Their stocks were rising like the tide, they were full and well fed, and yet God spoke through Jeremiah to those who would hear and said,
23 ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV)
God delights in the fact that He is rightly related to His people. His ways are just. His motives pure. His judgments are for the wholeness and benefit of His people. His love is absolutely selfless–He loves you and me, not because of anything we have done, or could do to benefit Him, but He loves us because He desires to love us. Do you see why it is so important for us to define righteousness by God’s righteous ways?
Not only is God righteous. Not only does God’s righteousness come to those who are undeserving of His goodness and righteous ways, but God says to you and me, “As you have seen Me love you, correct you, bless you, and protect you, now you go and do likewise.” We see this throughout God’s Word. Take a look at Deuteronomy 24:10-13 with me and I’ll give you an example of what I am talking about.
10 When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not go into his house to get what he is offering as a pledge. 11 Stay outside and let the man to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge out to you. 12 If the man is poor, do not go to sleep with his pledge in your possession. 13 Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 24:10-13 NIV)
God says, “If you loan your neighbor some money don’t dehumanize him, don’t take his basic necessities for living from him, look out for his best interests and he will thank you.” Don’t act like a modern-day creditor or a Roman tax-collector. Don’t try to work every angle to take every dime he’s got. Look out for his best interest and treat him like the Lord treats you.
The ancient Israelites were much like many of us today. They excelled at playing church, but their hearts were hard as a rock. They really didn’t have an interest in walking with God, they just wanted to be able to say they had been to church and dropped some change in the plate. God was onto their game and He spoke up in Amos 5:21-24.
21 I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,? I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:21-24 NIV)
It wasn’t that the religious feasts and offerings were worthless; God had instituted each of them. What was worthless was the way God’s people were treating those around them, taking advantage of their neighbor, turning a blind eye to injustice and sorrow and then going to church and singing the Lord’s praises. God says, “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” It is living righteously, loving boldly, forgiving sincerely, and seeking to be a blessing to others that makes our worship meaningful!
Let me give you a picture of what righteous living looks like. Turn with me to Genesis 13:5-9. As you turn there let me give you a little background on what we are going to see take place. Abram had already been promised the Promised Land by God. He had left his home country with his family and the Lord had blessed Abram and his family. As a matter of fact, he had been so blessed that the land wouldn’t support Abram and his nephew Lot’s herds. This leads us to our Scripture. Read along with me.
5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. 8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” (Genesis 13:5-9 NIV)
Did you notice what happened? Abram didn’t want there to be strife, he couldn’t stand the quarreling, so he told Lot, “Choose the land you want. Whatever you want, you choose, and I will take what’s left over.” Now that’s righteousness. Abram didn’t demand his rights. He didn’t remind Lot that God had promised him the land. Abram looked out for Lot. He called him his brother. He knew God would take care of him if he would take care of Lot. To live righteously means that you put the needs of others above your own wants. To live righteously means that you put others to the advantage even if it disadvantages you. The Apostle Paul wrote to the brothers and sisters in Philippi and said,
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:3-5 NIV)
Let me give you one more example of what I am talking about. In Matthew 25 Jesus gave us a picture of what the final judgment is going to look like. He said the Father will separate the people like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. When the righteous are notified that they will receive eternal life they are shocked. They ask,
37 “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” 40 The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:37-40 NIV)
Now I don’t want to confuse you. The “righteous” are not receiving eternal life because they are “good” and or because they do “good things.” The righteous do good things, they take care of the least of these, those that can never repay them or help them, because they are righteous, they are rightly related. Let me explain to you what I mean. You and I can never relate to others in the way the Lord relates to them until we are first made right with God. God has provided the avenue of our righteousness through His Son. If you and I will receive Jesus as Lord and Savior of our life then we will be in right relationship with God. If we will receive Jesus into our hearts then we can be rightly related to those around us.
I don’t know where you have come from today. I don’t know what kind of week you’ve had or what kind of heartache or disappointment you have had to endure, but I do know that God knows and He deeply cares. He had sustained you this week. He desires to shower you with His compassion, mercy, and kindness. You say, “How do you know that?” I know that because He is righteous, all His ways are right, and He delights to show kindness to His people. He has proven this over and over again, but the greatest example of His righteousness was when we were at a disadvantage and He offered His Son on Calvary’s cross so that we might gain the greatest advantage of all–to become a son or daughter of God! Won’t you invite Jesus into your heart this morning and watch the righteousness of God flood your heart and soul?