I often remember the advice of my beloved parents. I had two great and humble parents each with different personalities and attitudes. My mother was the romantic and sensitive one. My father a man of strong character and well disciplined. Even though they were total opposites, their relationship was one of mutual respect and honor. These principles they passed to my siblings and me. There is not one day that passes that their inspired advices are by my side; especially the religious ones. In this area my mother had the most to say. She, a devoted catholic, went to church just about every weekend and throughout the weekdays. She often conducted “novenas”, a nine day period of praying with a rosary, doing penance and good deeds. I became very familiar with all of the aspects of this ritual. My growing years were surrounded by the embrace of the activities of our local catholic church, even to the point that I became an “altar boy” for many years. It was a period of peace, love, and searching for answers. I had an inquisitive mind. My parish advisor, Father Seraphim, often heard my questions and provided the answers along the discipline of the Catholic Church. This meant that not all of my questions found favor in his eyes. He simply would respond, “Because the bible says so.” I had no quarrel with some of his answers because after many years of studying and researching the bible, I did find that most of the answers to my questions are within the bible.
This brings me to this article. Sometimes, the most elusive things in life are before you not at the edge of some distant horizon. For years, from early childhood, I asked the meaning of righteousness, I had a pretty good idea what wickedness was. After all, you cannot go to the nearest grocery store without observing some degree of wickedness camouflaged in the form of a lie, misconduct, or an ill act. Wickedness surrounds us daily. They interact with us, as well with others. The duration, intensity, and effect is depending on each individual situation. So, about wickedness I had a pretty good idea. However, when it came to “righteousness” all I could think was the opposite of what I had already learned from observing wickedness, and this is the way many of us see it throughout our lives. But just knowing and not recognizing how to measure it was my quandary. If wickedness is so vast across the manifestation of the evil spectrum, where does righteousness falls. Anyone with a normal conscious would recognize that ‘righteousness” is not as widespread as “wickedness” is. Why, is this I asked myself? What makes this world of ours to be so “skewed” toward wickedness and yet but a fraction toward righteousness? I think that there should be a balance between the two but more than often I encounter wickedness far ahead of righteousness. I felt that there had to be an answer to this quandary. I felt that my life would not be fulfilled unless an answer could be provided. Throughout the years, I heard from various ministers and bible readers various opinions but they all seem not to answer my question but provide a definition. In their effort to make me recognize that righteousness was an act we must all perform, failed to provide the underlying reason of why does wickedness out score righteousness.
After several periods of research here and there, I found the answer in the Gospel of Luke. Luke is my favorite gospel because it does identify the lineage of the Hebrew people and even this gospel does not have the sway of Matthew, it offers tantalizing truth to various scenarios mostly bible readers overlook. It is one of these passages that does not have the glory or impact of the other more overwhelming ones of Jesus’ ministry. But I consider this passage to answer the elusive question of how righteousness is measured when compared to wickedness.
Luke’s writing begins with a simple passage where Jeshua (Jesus) is again teaching about faith and forgiveness. How appropriate for this article. Jeshua emphasizes that “temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come” (Luke 17:1). He goes on by adding what a hard working servant may do for his master just because of what his master ask for him to do. You may not realize this but you as a worker, whether a carpenter, a butcher, a lawyer, or a doctor, you are always going to be asked, and in some cases demanded to perform beyond the already stipulated duties. Just as the servant plowing the fields and after completing such task may have to come and prepare a meal for his master (you). Should the master be complimentary and ask the servant to sit with him at his table and eat of the food he prepared, or would you rebuke him, or discredit him? How many times have you worked fervently because of your principle, attitude, or honor about the chosen profession, and after all of the hardships of the day, you find your boss, or whoever is in charge disregarding your efforts and in some situations you encounter that their behavior toward you, your performance is reproachable. But you remain in silence and go about the rest of day with a very heavy heart. Disappointment and discouragement are not part of righteousness, faith and trust in God is. This is what Jeshua told his disciples in the same chapter and thus applies to all of us that work for a living (Luke 17: 5-10).
Wickedness is the largest measurement within man’s world. Yes, righteousness does manifest itself also but in a much smaller proportion. Why? You would ask. Well, the answer is in our human attitude and according to the passage in Luke 17: 11-19, Jesus comes into a town and found ten lepers; with a loud and painful shouting, they asked for Jesus to heal them. He of course, takes piety on them and healed them. But before they could leave he commanded for them to go and “show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14) and as they went they were cleansed. The scenario seems harmless. Ten suffering lepers that Jesus healed. He’s been doing this all along the Sea of Galilee and surrounding communities, but what is interesting is “who” these ten lepers were? To your amazement, at least one was a “Samaritan” and possibly were others because Judaic people would not mingled with Samaritans, thus from my perspective a large number of them were Samaritans (Luke 17:16). I want you to remember that during Jesus’ time, Samaritans were viewed as a lower class with unwarranted courtesy, opportunities, or special privileges. In fact, a couple of episodes during Jesus’ ministry are recorded where he used the attitude (actions) of a Samaritan toward foreigners when in need to be more compassionate than that of his own Judaic people taking care of their own people (Luke 10:33, 17:16, John 8:48).
The answer to my question and the explanation of my article in how to measure “righteousness” is in the following verses of Luke in which Jesus asked, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17). It seems that only one came back and the others gave no thanks. The other nine never came back. So, what is the moral of the story? Our efforts, no matter how heavy or labor intense they may be, will not be recognized by peers, bosses, supervisors, or managers. The “true righteousness” comes from the people we assist, aid, help, and comfort. It is the outsider, the so called “Samaritan of our time” that will recognize our efforts because righteousness can only be viewed by the needy. Jesus taught this throughout his ministry. So do not be disconsolate because neither your boss, nor your peers recognize your abilities and your efforts, some “good Samaritan” out there will, and when you hear of their gratitude for all you have done while under your care, it is priceless. It is during this moment when you experience, “righteousness” and God’s eternal guarantee, “I will bless those who bless you and curse him (her) that curses you” (Genesis 12:3).
Unfortunately, just as only one came to say “thank you” to Jesus out of ten, so will you experience that but a fraction of those you help would ever say thank you but rest assure that before God your good actions do not go unnoticed. God will send one individual to thank you for what you did while under your care or service. Be patient! Have faith and trust in God’s great manifestations, not on the ones from your peers, or bosses. They too have ambitions and agendas, and these always come with greed, jealousy, envy, and reproach. Oh, yes, how do you recognize the wicked one manifesting wickedness? That is the one that is lazy and complains a lot and does not desire to help anyone except themselves but loves to instigate whenever it is convenient to them. One more thing to notice, wickedness loves “clicks”. It is here where wickedness loves company. So do not be saddened if a co-worker speaks behind your back or alters facts to protect their wickedness, just remember that righteousness is also “to forgive.” Be happy and pleased that at least ten percent of what you do is rewarded by that outsider, that stranger, that “Samaritan”. The other ninety percent we may not be rewarded or recognized for, but do not let this sadden you because that one-tenth is priceless just as a small diamond is more valuable than a piece of marble of the same size. It is not the quantity of your efforts that God looks at, it is the quality of your intents wrapped in honesty, humility, and compassion. These are the traits of the “righteous one” and the opposite belongs to the “wicked one”
Finally, now that you have an idea how righteousness is measured and at what level you may find it, here is my advice, “be confident in your abilities and trust God.” Wickedness and wicked people may seem to succeed more than the righteous ones but more often than not, the wicked suffers in relationships, health, spirituality, and financially. God promise that He will take care of His children as long as His children keep faith in Him and not in mankind (Lamentation 1:18). Remember Jesus’ words in Luke 17:6. It is the appropriate verse for our times and for my conclusion, Shalom!