It amazes me how important the choice of one word can be, either in politics, or in an argument, or even theologically. Like a lot of American Christians, I have several Bibles, and don’t read any of them as much as I should. (Working on that). I was raised with the King James version (that definitely dates me!). Learned verses like Matthew 6:33 “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you, ” along with other Christians of my generation. It’s a famous verse and a nice song.
But that version doesn’t impact me nearly as much as the same verse taken from The New English Bible, which says: “Set your mind on God’s kingdom and his justice before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well.”
Hate quibbling about words….but this one makes me think. Maybe ’cause I was raised on King James, (and have a thick head and hard heart at times), words can bounce off of me pretty well-lack of impact due to familiarity? Reading in a different translation sometimes gets my attention better (or hearing the words and principles in a song!). Righteousness seems like it’s about behaving well, or just about God instead of me. Seeking justice pulls at me as a call to action, and highlights how ineffective some of my inaction/attempted action is at times….it calls me to more.
(The New English Bible also uses justice, just or judgment in a lot of the other verses where King James uses righteousness….another reminder to me that God cares about justice and so should I).
I love it/hate it, when someting starts to get through to me. Usually calls me to humility and change…..
One thought on “Justice or righteousness?”
Great thoughts here. Both terms have a range of meaning, but a description of “righteousness” I’ve liked has been “right-relatedness,” which is, in short, a kingdom vision of shalom where everything is in right relationship: people with creation, people with one another, people with God, etc- and in this sense, righteousness is also a description of how this shalom is permeated with justice as well.
I like both translations as they both describe what God’s kingdom is like: right and just.