June 29, 2022

We have in fact, two kinds of morality, side by side: one which we preach, but do not practice, and another which we practice, but seldom preach.” “Without civic morality communities perish; without personal morality their survival has no value” – Bertrand Russell

Morality: principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour.



Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.



This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.


The Biblical Perspective on Righteousness

The Old Testament Perspective on Righteousness

The two key Hebrews words used for “righteousness” are “tsadiyq” and “tsedaqah”.

The word “tsadiyq” means the right (natural, moral or legal) – “something being right – aligning with how God ordain it and how God sees it in the natural, moral or legal sense. By application, we can say, for instance, that a marriage fulfils righteousness when it is performed as God ordained it, as “heterosexual monogamous” – a man and a woman.

The other Hebrew word used predominantly for “righteousness” is “tsedaqah”. “tsedaqah” means rightness in the subjective sense, justice in the objective sense, virtue in the moral sense and prosperity in the figurative sense.

Essentially, “tsedaqah” means “acts, words, deeds, and attitude that are considered right – aligned with the expected (by God in this sense). The English expression that brings this Hebrew word out clearly is “righteous acts”; these righteous acts can be counted into the credit of a person or a nation. Key example in the use of “tsedaqah” to represent righteousness (righteous acts) which can be credited to the account of a person or a nation is in Proverbs 14:34 which states, Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. This means the “Cumulative Righteousness (righteous acts, words, deeds and attitudes) of a population of over 30 million Ghanaians, for instance, determines the level to which the nation shall be exalted in the glory of God, and subsequently prosper.

2.2 The New Testament Perspective on Righteousness

One of the Greek words translated as “righteousness” in the New Testament is “dikaiosynē”.

The word “dikaiosynē” translated as “righteousness” means equity (of character or act). Thus this word, present righteousness as consistency in righteous character or act; this word is therefore the equivalence of the Hebrew words “tsedaqah” (“good deeds”) and “tsadiyq” (“doing right”). This consistency in character can also be referred to as “integrity”. Consistently doing good deeds and doing right is fruit of true sonship in Christ; it is the fruit that shows that Christ lives in us; one cannot claim to be in Christ without living a life of righteousness (good deeds and doing right).

Paul’s call on Christians to awake to righteousness (righteous acts) and by contrasting with “and sin not”, in 1 Corinthians 15:34, presupposes that sin is the opposite of “righteousness” (righteous acts). Similarly, Galatians 3:21 suggests that, even acts of righteousness (righteous acts) should be inspired by the Holy Spirit because the Law “reacting” with the sin nature can only produce the opposite of righteousness (righteous acts); this aligns with Paul’s struggle with the flesh in Romans 7:21-25 where he saw himself as a wretched man because the good he wanted to do he could not do but the evil he did not want to do, that he did.

In summary, righteousness can be defined as “behavior that is morally justifiable or right” before God. Such behavior is characterized by accepted standards of morality, justice, virtue, or uprightness.

The Bible’s standard of human righteousness is God’s own perfection in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word. Thus, God’s laws, as given in the Bible, both describe His own character and constitute the plumb line by which He measures human righteousness.

“righteousness” primarily describes the conduct of people in relation to others, especially with regards to the rights of others in business, in legal matters, and beginning with relationship to God. It is contrasted with wickedness, the conduct of the one who, out of gross self-centeredness, neither reveres God nor respects man. The Bible describes the righteous person as just or right, holding to God and trusting in Him (Psalm 33:18–22).


Righteousness is two fold:

Imputed: God’s saving acts – redemption that brings justification/Sanctification

Impacted: (positional, instantaneous righteousness) and sanctification (functional, progressive righteousness).


In Ephesians 6:14, our righteousness (righteous acts) is illustrated with the metaphor of the breastplate.

The breastplate of righteous signifies moral character,

  • which serves as the believer’s defence in a way that it protects our hearts from evil;
  • our response to evil is righteous acts (Matthew 5:38-42; Romans 12:17-21; 1 Peter 3:9); Do not repay evil for evil.
  • the way to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) is by the breastplate of righteous acts.
  • From 1 Timothy 6:11 it is observed that righteousness (righteous acts) can be pursued.





What does the word reproach mean when used in the biblical context and what is the biblical definition of reproach?


Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” The word righteousness in this passage is not referring to an individual’s right standing with God but to a nation that adheres to God’s righteous standards as found in His moral law. Notice it is not politicians who exalt a nation but righteousness.

Synonyms: Shame, disgrace and wicked

The Bible speaks of being “above reproach” or “blameless” as one of the distinctive marks of those who aspire to the office of elder or deacon within the church (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6–7). Their work for the church, as well as their interactions with others, are to be of such moral quality that they do not bring shame or in any way disgrace the body of Christ or the name of Jesus. This holds true not only within the church but outside it as well.


Someone who is above reproach is said to be not deserving of blame or criticism for something they said or did but someone who is being reproached is someone who has received criticism, disproval, or disappointed others that is justified by their actions. In other words, they have done things or something that deserved condemnation and rebuke or blame. The biblical definition of the word reproach is not unlike the secular definition as we shall see.


The Reproach of Israel


When the Philistine’s Goliath was hurling insults at Israel and against God, David was outraged and so David asked “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God” (1Sam 17:26).


When God disciplined Judah for her idolatry, Jeremiah wrote as God speaking, “And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten” (Jer 23:40) and “I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a reproach, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them” (Jer 23:40) and because of their idolatry God says “I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them” (Jer 29:18) but someday God “will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach” (Zeph 3:18). The purpose of making Israel a reproach was that they would repent and turn again to Him.


The word “reproach” in the second part of Proverbs 14:34 is used in another instance to describe the evil of immorality within a family relationship. (Read Leviticus 20:17)

Even today, most people consider that as something wicked or that brings disgrace.

Through the years, we see an alarming rise in people’s receptivity to obvious disgraceful acts. This began when Christians chose to take a more tolerant stance. When Christians do not speak out against the sins around them, others easily misconstrue that passivity for a sign of a Christian’s approval or acceptance.

One cannot presume that one sin (or one sinner) cannot really affect others on a larger scale. The Bible warns us about how sin progresses (James 1:14-16) and how it can develop into a stronghold that needs to be torn down (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). This is not only true of sins in the life of an individual because the sin of one individual can surely affect many others around him. As it was said, “a little yeast can make the whole dough rise” (Gal. 9). This was true of Achan (Joshua 7).

Today, we see celebrities and prominent people commit disgraceful acts. Yet, society still accepts and celebrates them. Some Christian leaders even openly support them. Thus, people get more confused about what standards to follow. And so they start accepting these sinful acts as okay and normal. This is the mindset that has spread quickly and corrupted many throughout the past decades. Indeed, the sin of one, once allowed and accepted, can greatly corrupt many and largely affect and disgrace even a nation.


The word “exalts” in the first part of Proverbs 14:34 literally means to “lift up” or “prosper.” This means righteousness greatly affects how God honors that nation and how others regard it. However, this is a truth that some Christians ignore or pay very little attention to.

Just as some may think that the sin of one doesn’t have that much of a wide impact, so do some Christians think that their lifestyle doesn’t really have much effect on society and that their lives are too insignificant to affect those around them. But Scripture says exactly the opposite. 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 says that God chooses those that society thinks are foolish, weak, and insignificant to make a difference in the world.

“Righteousness,” as the verse says, is indeed a means by which Christians can impact and help their respective societies, even their nation.

Creating an impact of righteousness in society starts with us making sure we have the right influence first as individuals. As we become spiritually strong believers, it becomes our task to nurture spiritually strong families. And as we raise spiritually strong children, we have a better hope of producing spiritually strong leaders who might be able to lead with righteous principles. But it all starts with the small ripple we begin as individuals. Then it widens and allows people around us to catch onto the vision. And thus, we all create a larger series of ripples that impact and lift our nation.


The generations and ages have repeatedly proved the truth of this proverb. A nation which conducts itself in righteousness ‘exalts’ itself. The word ‘exalts’ describes the lifting up, or elevating, of the people’s collective life. It is more of a moral term than descriptive of material benefits. This has already been stated in regards to a ‘city’ (Pro 11:11) and it applies to ‘kings’ (Pro 16:2; 14:28). In contrast, the people who tolerate and promote sin find it, in the end, to be a disgrace. The word here is rare and unusual…It describes a deep and disgraceful shame of almost unspeakable proportions (Lev 20:17).


The values of a nation are never neutral. They either conform to God’s character or not. Righteousness is not accidental. When the majority of people in a nation purpose in their hearts to know God and walk in His will, then that nation will reflect righteousness and be morally strong. When leaders and citizens choose righteousness, the nation is lifted up and reflects the highest and best in mankind. But sin destroys a nation; and it does so from the inside out (arrogance, selfishness, greed, hatred, etc.).

Righteousness is taught from one generation to the next. It starts with believers learning and living God’s Word, then teaching their children to do the same. Each child must choose to accept the biblical values of the parents, then to walk in those values. When God established Israel as a nation under the leadership of Moses, the Lord commanded the parents to teach His word to the children. God said:

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deut 6:6-7)


The blessing and prosperity of Israel depended upon their obedience to God’s word (Deut 6:8-25). If they feared God and walked in His truth, then there was blessing (Deut 28:1-14). If they turned away from God and lived in perpetual sin, then there was cursing (Deut 28:15-68). The cursing of God upon the nation of Israel came in stages (decaying social life, destruction of crops, famine and military defeat), and eventuated in total destruction if they failed to humble themselves before the Lord. When Jewish children asked their parents why they were to learn and obey God’s word, the parents were to say, “the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival” (Deut 6:24).

When Joshua took over the leadership of Israel God said “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Joshua 3:7).

Later After Joshua and Israel had crossed over into the Promised land, the Bible says “the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life” (Joshua 4:14).


Israel is the only theocracy to exist in human history. Today there are no theocratic kingdoms in the world. There is only the spiritual kingdom to which all believers belong (Acts 26:18; Col 1:13). Believers within a national entity have the power to influence their country and help perpetuate its blessing from God; and like those living in ancient Israel, righteousness must be taught and caught by each new generation. God gives freedom, but freedom must always be seen as an opportunity to do good for others; for God declares, “Surely I will set you free for purposes of good” (Jer 15:11). And Paul states, “you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Gal 5:13). Each new generation must choose God and His will, for a nation is only one generation away from success or failure; from being righteous or sinful.

Godly parents can raise godly children, and godly children can provide godly influence in their communities and in the nation. In a democracy, where leadership is elected and not inherited, the Lord’s remnant must exert as much influence for righteousness as possible; certainly every believer ought to pray for those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1–8).

National leaders and citizens commit sin when they deviate from God’s will. At the core of sin is a rebellious heart, a fallen nature, an internal defiance toward God in which a person sets his will against his Creator. Whether educated or uneducated, religious or irreligious, believer or unbeliever, every person has the capacity and propensity to sin. Every nation has its unbelievers who continually produce sin; but only the believer has a spiritual nature (acquired at salvation) which enables him to walk with God in accordance with Scripture. The believer has a choice to follow God or the world, and God calls the believer to forsake sin and live righteously (Rom 6:11-14; 13:12-14).  Paul stated:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Tit 2:11-14)


Psalm 1

The Christian is chosen by God to be a light in the world, and to call people to God that they might be saved by grace through faith. The whole world lies in darkness, and the Christian is to preach the gospel to the lost, calling unbelievers “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). The world, as a whole, will never be reformed or made perfect because it consists of unbelievers who are guided by sinful values.

We live in the world, but we are not of the world. Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:19). Though we live in the world, we are called to strive for holiness rather than conformity (Rom 12:1-2).

As Christians and army of God, we are expected to live lives that conform to the will of God. In the symbolic clothing of the Messiah in Isaiah 11:1-5, it was observed that character and not brute force wins the battle. The breastplate of righteousness, which the believer puts on is their defense, much the same way as the moral character of the believer, his witness and testimony is an expression of his authority in Christ. God Himself is symbolically described as putting on a breastplate of righteousness when he goes forth to bring about justice (Isa. 59:17). It is when we live in such a way that we can exercise legitimate spiritual and moral authority to correct the world of its injustices and cruelty and thereby bring prosperity to the nations.

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