You can count on the fingers of both hands the number of times in the New Testament when someone is recognized as being “right” or “correct,” in the sense of having deduced things accurately – and you’d never have to use your thumbs and still have one finger left over.
- Mark 7:6
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
- Matthew 15:7
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you …
- Mark 12:32
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.
- Luke 7:43
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
- Luke 10:28
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
- John 4:17
“I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.”
- John 13:13
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
At least, that’s all I found. (Other than a couple more where people thought they were right but were wrong!) Now, I’m not talking about the times the word “right” is used in the sense of “opposite of left” (as in “right hand”), “moral/holy” (as in “do right”), or “innate privilege” (as in “my rights”). I’m just counting the ones having to do with people cogitating correctly.
Because we think that’s pretty important, don’t we? We all want to have it all right in our heads. Right?
But the numbers for knowing right don’t add up to the number of New Testament verses that feature “do right” or “do what is right.” I found eight of them:
- Romans 12:17
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
- Romans 13:3
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.
- 2 Corinthians 8:21
For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.
- 2 Corinthians 13:7
Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.
- 1 Peter 3:6
like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
- 1 John 3:10
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
- 1 Peter 2:14
or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
- Revelation 22:11
Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”
Now, I’m not trying to minimize knowing what’s right as compared to doing what’s right; you have to know what’s right before you can do it. Right?
But if you add them together, you still only get 15. Add “do good” / “doing good” and you get about 25 more. Factor in “obey” and “obedience” and you get about 56 more. All that still doesn’t begin to compare to the number of times that the New Testament talks about righteousness or being righteous:
In the NIV, that is; from which I’ve drawn all these numbers and comparisons. (Your results and versions may vary. But not that much. I mean, I want to be right all the time. I just don’t have time to be right about all the different versions and counts and numbers and stats. It’s driving me nuts. However, I digress …,)
We all want to have it right in our heads, and some of us want to have it right through our hands, feet, lips, hearts and wallets. Hardly any of us, though, want what it takes to actually be righteous. And that’s okay, because we can’t. Not on our own. Not ever.
Oh, of course, we want to be righteous. We just can’t muster what it takes to be perfect.
That’s okay, too.
All we have to do is be like Jesus, and let Him be righteous for us.
You’ll fail. So will I. (Romans 3:23)
I’m pretty sure I’m right about that.
If not … I’m sure you’ll set me right!