...Thus you will walk in the ways of good men
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
Several years ago, a small group of people met at my office in New York City to launch an informal Bible discussion group. During the discussion, one young man expressed his frustration with the book of Proverbs.
“I read it,” he said, “but all I came across was ‘righteousness this’ and ‘righteousness that’ without ever learning what righteousness is.”
The young man posed a good question, “What is righteousness?” Let’s start with what it is not. The rich ruler in Luke 18:18 lived by many of the commandments given to Moses, but Jesus told him that he still lacked one thing: to sell all his worldly wealth and “then come, and follow me” (Luke 18:22). The rich ruler refused because his wealth had a greater hold on him than God did.
But this is not the case with Abraham. At God’s command, Abraham left everything, including his family and his home: “Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
Righteousness is not self-righteousness; it is not bragging rights about what a great person you are, even if you are a very good person. Rather, it is a total readjustment of the heart so that you can move from doubt and detachment to a condition where you are willing not to be unwilling. Jesus summarizes it in a very straightforward way: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29).
Righteousness is a willingness to subordinate your will, your needs, and your concerns to the Lord; “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10).
—from Eric Kampmann's, Signposts