Can People Truly Be Righteous? And Why Does It Even Matter?


I’ve always struggled with this word. Probably because it’s all tangled up with the term “self-righteous” in my brain.

And the two are as different as night and day.

Self-righteousness is all about show. Look what I’ve done. See how spiritual I am?

It’s also what earned the Pharisees the stern condemnation of Jesus.

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:20

Take a trip toMiller's Creek.


Why Being Righteous Matters

But righteousness? Humanity needs it just as badly as we need air to breathe.

Since the fall of mankind in the garden of Eden, we are unquestionably flawed.


As it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”

Romans 3:10-12


Our puny attempts at righteousness are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), which in the ancient Hebrew carried the same meaning as soiled feminine hygiene products!

But we need God. We are designed to fellowship with Him. And our unrighteousness makes it impossible to come into His Holy Presence.

That’s why we also desperately need a Savior. Someone to deliver us from these marred, sin-stained lives.

And God, in His great love, mercy, and grace, saw our need and answered it with Jesus.

And in the greatest and most miraculous transaction in all of history, Jesus took our sin and exchanged it for His righteousness.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Mind-boggling, isn’t it? (My favorite verse, by the way.)

His Righteousness, Our Breastplate

But the miracle doesn’t stop there.

In addition to giving us His righteousness in exchange for our filthy rags, He also uses that righteousness as part of our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18). And it helps us defeat the enemy of our souls.

(If you missed the first post in our Armor Up blog series — WHAT GOD’S WORD SAYS ABOUT HOW TO ACTUALLY PROTECT OUR MINDS — you’ll find it here. And if you’d like to get these posts delivered directly to your inbox, you can subscribe here.)

Where the helmet of salvation protects our minds, the breastplate of righteousness protects our hearts.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.

Proverbs 4:23

The above verse tells us why that’s important: “For from it flow the springs of life.”

The imagery is that of a spring of water bubbling up out of the earth.

Cool. Refreshing. Pristine.


But if that spring becomes polluted at its headwaters, nothing good can come from it.

That’s why it’s so critical that we guard our hearts. It is with our hearts that we fulfill God’s greatest commandment.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Luke 10:27

Guard Our Hearts

Righteous Wrap-Up

Isn’t God good?

His perfect gifts never end.

In addition to giving us His righteousness through Jesus, He also gives us a breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…

-Ephesians 6:13-14

So let’s armor up and stand our ground.

With God’s help and armor, we can and will defeat the enemy.

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