Righteousness Defined

What is Righteousness

I’ve talked about being righteous and righteousness in several articles and it struck me that it’s a word that means different things to different people both inside and outside the church. So, I thought I’d write an article to explain what it means on this site.

In its simplest form, being righteous is being right before God. And righteousness is acting in ways that are Godly.


The trouble for us is God is a holy, perfect being. There is no sin, no hate, no lying, no imperfection of any kind in him. And because of his holiness, he can’t be around anything that isn’t holy and perfect as well. If he is, the impure object (us) is destroyed. To be in his presence, we would have to be perfect in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word, which is impossible.

If it’s impossible to be perfect and we must be perfect to be righteous, then why do I talk so much about it? Why discuss a standard we can’t possibly attain?

Because God, in his infinite mercy, has provided a means for us to be made perfect, holy and righteous in his sight. He came to earth as Jesus Christ – the only perfect, holy and righteous human being that has ever lived – and sacrificed himself on our behalf to reconcile us with himself. So, once we accept Jesus as our Savior, God accepts his sacrifice as payment for our sin.

​We can never be righteous and holy on our own. But “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). So, when God looks at a Christian, he doesn’t see that person, he sees Jesus – his perfect son.

​When discussed on this website, righteousness does not mean a perfect life without sin because as long as we’re alive here on earth, we battle between our fleshly desires (sin) and being obedient to God. And sometimes, quite frankly, we choose poorly. Living a righteous life or a godly life means we focus on Jesus and working every day to understand him better and act like him more.

... Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1 - 2