Matthew 1:18-21, 24 (NLT)
Joseph, to whom she (Mary) was engaged, was a righteous man…
If you could have any words written on your tombstone, what would they be? He loved his kids? He was rich? He was kind? He was a selfish SOB? He lit up a room the moment he walked in? Or, taking a line from the old joke about the hypochondriac, “I told you I was sick”?
For me, Joseph’s grand introduction would work just fine, “He was a righteous man”? Yes. That will do quite well.
We don’t often use the term righteous in a pleasant setting. Sure, we say a person is self-righteous, meaning that they are high and mighty, or full of themselves, but we rarely refer to someone as being righteous. It’s fallen out of vogue.
I suspect it might be because we live in a world where fewer and fewer people live lives that reflect the qualities of being loving, good, upright, virtuous or moral. We might know a few people that fit that category but we associated it with their upbringing, their family. You’ve probably said it yourself, “He is such a nice guy, always thinking of others” or “She’s so patient with him, she’s practically saintly.” In truth, he or she might be more than good. They might be better than nice. They might be righteous.
Righteousness, in the time of Joseph’s life, meant that he faithful to a code of living, a standard of laws, an expected way of treating others. It also meant that a person followed the Will of God.
Matthew gives us very little detail about Joseph, and yet, he tells us everything we need to know. We don’t know the color of his hair, the size of his tunic, the color of his living room or his preferred tool (hammer or hand saw?). But he tells us everything about his character with one word.
The man who would raise the Son of God, be the husband to the Mother of God, Joseph was a man of upright living. He was good to his very soul, not because of his family, but because of his faith. He was a man who followed the rules, yes. But he was also a man who followed God’s call on his life. It’s a good thing, too. Because he’s going to be required to follow God further than he’s ever followed him before.
How about you? Are you righteous? Are you good and are you Godly? Do you respond to God’s call on your life?
A better question: “What will be on your tombstone?”
May our hearts and lives reflect our faithfulness in following you. May we be righteous. May we be faithful. May we hear your voice, and obey.