At the end of my life, looking back, what would be the best case scenario? A life of… indulgence? avoidance? mediocrity?
How about righteousness? If by righteousness the idea is:
Psalms 1:3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
then, yes; I would like that.
In Psalm 1 the one described like a tree lives a blessed life because he rejects shallowness and invests deeply in what God reveals about life and how to live it. Jesus takes the idea and contrasts it to what many of us fear when we hear the word “righteous”.
Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
What I don’t want now, or in the future looking back, is a life of being self-righteousness. That would be a vision of a delusion and manipulation, of religious oddness expressed in complex rationalizations. That is not a good life. But what is the alternative?
Jesus goes on in Matthew 5:21-48 to give a picture of righteousness I would love to look back on at the end of my life. It is a description of someone who stops using contemptuous aggression or avoidance with people. Instead, a righteous life is getting practical about finding ways to make peace with people as much as is up to you. Blessed are the peacemakers, that is what God does, and so do the children of God. (MT 5:21-26)
Righteousness is also described as having a heart that is pure, not mixed. In regard to desire, commitments and promises we don’t try to appear one way and leave room in our hearts for another way. Our hearts and our actions are consistent, unmixed. How blessed to be pure in heart, to be able to see God for who he is because there is no complex maze of rationalization and pretense. (MT 27-37)
Ultimately moving beyond contempt with other people and actually having an internal congruency leads us to live out some amazing righteousness. This is not a law to live up to, this is a vision of what trusting Christ’s wisdom will bring about. It is a description of who we can become. When people are hostile to us we will no longer be obligated to join them in their angry ways of thinking and acting. We will have an inner strength to stick to our commitment to justice and mercy in humility before God. We won’t be paranoid about others getting an advantage over us because we will have adjusted our treasures in such a way that we no longer live in fear. We will be free to be generous because it is right, not because of some lesser reason. It is blessed to be merciful because that is where God rules: in the giving of mercy. I want that. I want to be like my Creator in the best sense I can as his creation. I want the healthy, mature version of righteousness. That would be blessed at the end of my life. That would be a blessed way to live now. (MT 38-48)