“But seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, ASV).
The New Living Translation says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
There is a big difference between these two translations.
Righteousness is a state, a condition, while living righteously is an activity.
Which is right? Are we to pursue a condition or an activity?
Some imagine that behaving perfectly (or nearly so) is righteousness. Not so. Good conduct is certainly a product of righteousness, but not a payment for it. One cannot earn the state of righteousness by behaving better.
Righteousness is a gift. It cannot be purchased. It cannot be chased and captured, like prey. It cannot be won, like a carnival prize.
It can be obtained only as a favor. It is imputed (credited to our account) by God when we obey the gospel of his Son (Hebrews 5:8-9).
Having obtained righteousness by faith in Jesus (i.e., faith properly defined), one can live the life of a righteous person, a justified person – a person whose account has been balanced by the Great Accountant of the Universe.
What follows is a life of gratitude and loyalty and yes, even moral improvement, but not in order to earn God’s love, but rather to reciprocate it.
That is righteousness – the life of a righteous person.