Righteous people? (Matthew 10:40-42)

How can Matthew talk about righteous people? I thought there weren’t any.

Open Matthew 10:40-42.

In the grounds of the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem is the Garden of the Righteous. It honours gentiles who protected Jews under Nazi threat, people like Shindler or Corrie Ten Boom. They’re considered righteous because they did the right thing by the people of God, even though they themselves were not descendants of Jacob. The way you treat God’s people is the way you treat God.

That’s how the word righteous (ṣǎd·dîq in Hebrew) functions in Jewish thought, but Christians tend to be horrified by this word. For the last 500 years, protestants have emphasized texts like Romans 3:10: “No one is righteous, not even one.”

Then we’re thoroughly confused when other texts talk about righteous people. The Gospels label several as righteous (dikaios in Greek):

  • Joseph (Matthew 1:19)
  • Abel (Matthew 23:35)
  • John the Baptist (Mark 6:20)
  • Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:6)
  • Simeon (Luke 2:25)

Jesus taught that God sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). He spoke of many righteous people (Matthew 13:17). He even expected Galileans to recognize his disciples as righteous people (Matthew 10:41).

What do you do when one part of the Bible doesn’t match other parts? Continue reading “Righteous people? (Matthew 10:40-42)”