Psalm 89:14 | Romans 3:10,4:2-3 | Philippians 3:9

Justice, with righteousness.

Lots of people are talking about justice these days. Not so many mention righteousness. Why is that? Righteousness is just as important. You can’t be Godly without it. In fact…it’s half the foundation of God’s throne!

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants.

Psalm 89:14 NLT

Maybe righteousness has gotten a bad name over the years. Or maybe it’s just hard to define.

Justice is easy. Everyone seems to have a sense of what is fair–even if their perspective is skewed, or just limited to their own point of view. Righteousness, though…that one is kind of slippery. Does it mean being right? Because people are always disagreeing about who or what is right in any situation. 

If so, who decides? God decides. But guess what… None of us have a great track record where righteousness is concerned.

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one.”

Romans 3:10 NLT

Righteousness does mean being right–it means being right with God. And that is impossible to do under your own power. You can’t do enough. You can’t give enough. Because righteousness is not about doing or giving; it’s about trusting.

I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

Philippians 3:9b NLT

Take Abraham, for instance. He was a righteous dude. But not because of what he did; God called him righteous because of his faith. He trusted God’s promise to make him the father of a great nation, even though he was so old he was “as good as dead” (see Romans 4:19) and his wife was well past child-bearing age.

If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

Romans 4:2-3 NLT

Getting back to the topic of justice, have you ever considered that justice–like righteousness–is also affected by who determines it? That’s why we have terms like ‘poetic justice’ (which is usually more ironic than just), ‘mob justice’, and even ‘social justice’. 

The next time you get the urge to be a justice warrior, consider which variety you are arming yourself for. Most of all, make sure you’re right with God. Trust him, and follow his guidance. 

Finally, think about this: justice without righteousness might not be justice at all. 

Questions for Group Discussion

  • How subjective is justice? Does yours look the same as your parents’ or grandparents’ version of justice?
  • What does it mean to be “self righteous”? Why is it a putdown to call someone self righteous? If you shouldn’t be self righteous, what kind of righteous should you be?
  • How are righteousness and justice linked? What does Psalm 89:14 mean when it names these as the foundation of God’s throne?

Application: You Can’t Have One Without the Other

Justice and righteousness go together like peas and carrots, like peanut butter and jelly, like nachos and cheese… 

Find a story in the news that focuses on an issue of justice. Read it, then find another source for the same story to get  additional information or, preferably, a different point of view. Then answer the questions below:

  1. How is the situation in the story an issue of justice?
  2. If justice has not been served in this case, what kind of justice is being called for? (What is being proposed as a remedy to the situation?) If it has been served, what was done?
  3. Do you think the justice (or proposed remedy) was served with righteousness? If so, why? Our definition of righteousness is something in right standing with God, according to scripture.
  4. Expound on #3 by either 1) explaining why the justice was served with righteousness, or 2) suggesting a more righteous remedy than the one being offered.