But seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

Matthew 6:33

In the personal reflection point of the last reflection, we were challenged to answer how we can seek righteousness and humility. In the reflection, we touched on humility and in this reflection, I want to go back to the word “righteous.”

“Righteous” has to do with what is correct in the eyes of God. It is a word we don’t hear very often. More often than not, we hear the word “morality” in its place. We tend to describe people as “moral” people but very rarely do we describe them as “righteous” people. There is a critical difference. Morality is what is right in the eyes of humanity. A moral person follows the legal and social laws of society, which change and are redefined with each generation. There are things that were immoral a century ago that are morally acceptable today. And there are things that were morally acceptable that society is deeming immoral—a recent decision in Ann Arbor, Michigan, banned the use of gas blowers as an example. They violate the shifting morality on our relationship with the environment. Morality shifts with each generation, and what constitutes a moral person is subject to contemporary interpretation.

Going back to what is “righteous,” this is what is correct in the eyes of God and it does not change. The barometer of righteousness does not move. The highest pursuit, therefore, is not of goodness, because what is good changes over time. The highest pursuit is Godliness, because that does not change. And the goal then becomes for us to be righteous, Godly people, that than moral and good people.

Our pursuit of righteousness is centered around today’s verse from Matthew 6:33—Seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.   “Morality” on the other hand, is what is correct in the eyes of humanity. They do not necessarily match. Morality is redefined with each generation. Righteousness remains the same. There are things that were immoral a century ago that are morally acceptable today. It is important to remember that there is no barometer of righteousness that can move. God’s righteousness is immovable.

In Luke 1:5-7, we are introduced to Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of St. John the Baptist, with these words: In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

We know that eventually their prayers were answered and they had a son, John the Baptist. But in all those years, they didn’t know if or how their prayer might be answered. What they did know was that they wanted to be righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. This is something that they could control.

Just because one is righteous does not mean that all their earthly desires are met. God has a unique plan for each person’s life, a unique road that can lead to salvation. I recall often the verses from Isaiah 55:8-9, which say, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Jesus is telling us in Matthew 6:33 that our thoughts should be first towards His Kingdom and His righteousness, and the other things talked about in Matthew 6—specifically release from anxiety—will be added to us. It doesn’t say riches or fame or security, but specifically the things that weigh us down with anxiety

One of the strongest words in the Greek language is “dikaios,” which can be translated as righteous, just, wise, discerning, true. In Matthew 6:33, the word is dikaiosini which is from the same root. Calming our anxieties, therefore, is found in being dikaios in the eyes of God. If we wanted God to describe us in a few words, one of those words would be faithful and the other would be “righteous.” We certainly need to understand the difference between morality and righteousness, and stick with the things we know are right in the eyes of God, even as the morality of society shifts.

Come, believers, let us see the place where Christ has been born. With the Magi, those three kings who from the orient are, now let us follow to where the star is proceeding. Ceaselessly do Angels sing praises there. Shepherds in the field sing a worthy song, saying: Glory in the highest be to Him who was born today in the grotto from the Virgin and Theotokos, in Bethlehem of Judea (Kathisma, Orthros of the Nativity, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

Personal Reflection Point: What does this verse tell us about priorities?


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here: https://amzn.to/3nVPY5M


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