Righteous vs. Unrighteous – What’s The Difference

Maybe you’re like me. You have an idea or concept what righteousness and unrighteousness looks like. It may be stereotypical of years growing up in a certain region or area yet each of us could give a description or identify them if they were standing in a police lineup.  For me (it used to be)…

Being righteous looks like going to church dressed nice, not cussing or drinking, being nice to people, not looking for mean things to do to people, being considerate, polite and honorable, taking your hat off when you enter a building, pray before your meal, love your momma and respect your daddy, daily reading your bible (even if it is closing your eyes and opening it wherever and start reading).

Being unrighteousness looks like dunk by 7:00 am each day, chain-smoking, cussing like a sailor (does that analogy work anymore) being devious, no care for anyone but yourself, Sunday is for fishing, hunting or nursing a hangover, loud and disrespectful, prayer is a get out of jail card, God is called the man upstairs, rap sheet miles long, and decorating your coffee table with the 5 pound family bible that is seldom read.

But if we find that unrighteousness and righteousness derive from the bible, then maybe we should get our definition there. Here we could say that righteous is knowing and worship Jesus and unrighteous are the ugly list Paul gives of sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers that will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

But that leaves out so much. It creates a gray line on exactly who is righteous and who is a sinner. So to be concise save a deep theological context, here are my thoughts.

Everyone is a sinner at heart. But some accepted Jesus’ gospel and are considered saints due to the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness on those who accepted him without condition.

With that being said, how do we recognize in such a blurred society of piety and wickedness who’s who.

Psalm 1:1-3 says

Blessed is the one 

(Description of the sinner) who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way a sinner take or sit in the company of mockers.

(Description of the righteous) but whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season.

In other words a good indication in difference is the righteous delights in God and meditates on His word, not just picks a place and reads to do his religious time or calls on the man upstairs in time of need. The unrighteous intentionally does not delight in God or His word. He delights in his own ways and his own success. One seeks after God while the other seeks after self interests.

I dare ask which one are you?



About Kevin Riner
child of grace, worshiper of Jesus, husband, father, Pastor of Village Church, author of Faith Debugged

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