Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Rightness Effect

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.
His descendants will be mighty on earth;
The generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches will be in his house,
And his righteousness will endure forever.
(Psalm 112:1-3)
Righteousness endures. But what is righteousness? People often think of it in religious terms, as pious behaviors, devout observances of special holy days, carefully segregated from normal, everyday life. But it is really very simple: Righteousness is about being in proper relationship with God and doing what is right. It is rightness.

Rightness endures. Whenever we do what is right, it is never wasted, and it makes a lasting change in the world. Perhaps you have seen the TV ads for Liberty Mutual, where one person performs an act of kindness (let’s not call it random, but deliberate) for a stranger, who then shows kindness to another. That simple deed is witnessed by a third who becomes more mindful to do the same. A chain of “doing the right thing” follows until it eventually comes back around to the first person. (Here is ad 1, “Half Acre,” and ad 2, “The Part Where You Let Go.”)

It is kind of like chaos theory in science, which speaks of the unpredictability of certain changes and events, such as weather patterns and other systems, because of “sensitive dependence upon initial conditions.” The classic paradigm, also known as the Butterfly Effect, is that the beating of a butterfly’s wings in Beijing affects the weather over New York City. In other words, small changes can make big differences. In the same way, seemingly small acts of doing what is right can change the world.

The man in this psalm is one who lives in awe of God and has a burning passion for pleasing Him by doing what is right. It changes him, but not him only. His children are influenced by it and they become mighty on earth. No only are his descendants blessed, they become a blessing to others. Good things follow, for he sows a seed of rightness and reaps a harvest of prosperity. In that prosperity is seed for doing more good.

Paul reminds us, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). And so it is with this man. He is a good man who deals graciously and lends; he guides his affairs with a proper judgment and divine wisdom (Psalm 112:5).
He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His rightness endures forever;
His horn will be exalted with honor.
(Psalm 112:9)
The good that comes from living in awe of God and doing what is right never ends. Rightness endures forever.