Sunday School Lessons

Show Me What Righteousness Looks Like

In the previous article, God refuted the claim of the Israelites that they were being unfairly punished for the sins of others.  However, there also seems to be the idea (later in Ezekiel 18) of righteousness and wickedness, rather than specific sins.  When it comes to individual actions, even dedicated Christians still sin sometimes.  However, there’s a difference between making mistakes, and committing to a life of sin, pride, and selfishness.  As described in previous articles, our soul can be redeemed when we accept Jesus, but our body continues to remain corrupted in this fallen world.  While only part of us is justified, there’s a battle to be fought.  I don’t know about you, but I look forward to having a new body – one that is aligned with God’s will, and not broken like this one – when Jesus returns.

However, understanding that it’s important to be righteous is one thing, but I like to have instructions on what I should do.  I don’t want to only have a goal, I’d like for someone to teach me how to get there.  My request is, “Show me how”.

Continuing in Ezekiel 18, here’s what a righteous man’s life is described as looking like:

“Suppose there is a righteous man
who does what is just and right.

He does not eat at the mountain shrines
or look to the idols of Israel.

He does not defile his neighbor’s wife
or have sexual relations with a woman during her period.

He does not oppress anyone,
but returns what he took in pledge for a loan.

He does not commit robbery
but gives his food to the hungry
and provides clothing for the naked.

He does not lend to them at interest
or take a profit from them.

He withholds his hand from doing wrong
and judges fairly between two parties.

He follows my decrees
and faithfully keeps my laws.

That man is righteous;
he will surely live,
declares the Sovereign LORD.
Ezekiel 18:5‭-‬9 NIV

Now, doing these things all (or even most) of the time doesn’t save us, but when we are committed to righteousness (especially with the Holy Spirit’s help), this is a good summary of how follower of God should live.

Verse 5 seems to summarize this man’s behavior, while the next four verses explain details about that.  Note that there is a mix of things that this righteous man doesn’t do, and things that he does do.

Let’s take a look at some of these:

  • I suspect that eating at mountain shrines means going to pagan temples, altars, or other locations of idol worship.
  • It might seem unusual that not having relations during a woman’s period is in the same verse as not defiling one’s neighbor’s wife, but God made his instructions clear.  In fact, these two commands are included – one right after the other – in Leviticus 18:19-20.  (See also Leviticus 20:18.)
  • Returning a pledge is a big deal, since a poor person may have given their cloak as security in return for a loan or other favor, and that same person could be pretty cold that night if the cloak wasn’t returned promptly.  See Exodus 22:26-27, for instance, as well as Deuteronomy 24:10-13, Deuteronomy 24:17.)
  • Note that the “opposite” of robbery isn’t just “not stealing things”, but rather providing food and clothing for others.  When we keep our surplus (which we received from God in the first place) from others with whom God wants us to share, we’re essentially taking what God wants them to have.
  • The idea of charging someone interest is a little complicated.  Some verses and interpretations suggest that Israelites people weren’t supposed to charge interest at all (at least to their fellow countrymen), while others forbid usury (charging unrealistic interest rates, like a loan shark).  Regardless, looking out for our neighbors seems to be at the heart of these commands.
  • Being honest is righteous, as is following God’s commands.

And, in the end, the righteous man will not die, according to God (which is a strong testimony, to say the least).

So, if you’ve been trying to live a “good” (or righteous) life, this passage is a starting point.  Understanding and following God’s will can be achieved by reading more of His Word (the Bible), and listening for the Holy Spirit’s direction.  However, if you haven’t given your life over to God (through Jesus Christ, God the Son), I’m afraid that you’re at a substantial disadvantage (like trying to sprint while wearing work boots) until you allow Him to redeem your soul.

From Sunday School lesson prepared for August 21, 2022


  • The Lookout, August 21, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

2 thoughts on “Show Me What Righteousness Looks Like”

  1. “in the same verse”
    We should remember that the chapter and verse divisions were not put into the text until a few hundred years ago. The fact that the 2 points appear following each other in the original commands in Leviticus is a better point than that they appear in the same verse in Ezekiel 18; but that they are separate commands would be how the original readers, without verse divisions, would have understood them. (My opinion…)

    Liked by 1 person

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