A direction, not perfection

“For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction” (Psalm 1:6).

Psalm 1 is sometimes called the “gateway to the Psalms.” As if providing a general introduction to the 149 psalms that follow, it gives us high-level wisdom about life and foregrounds a very important choice for people to make.

Will we take the way of the righteous, or the way of the wicked?

To be “righteous” is to live in a way that is right with God and right with others.

Robert Alter points out that taking a certain “way” (or “road” or “path”) is a metaphor for a “set of moral choices.”* It is about choosing—day by day—to follow the ways of God with our thoughts, words, decisions and actions.

When reading through this pointed teaching, we need to remember that the way of the righteous is about a direction, not perfection. That needs to be said. None of us can be righteous on our own. Only Jesus was perfectly righteous. When reading a psalm like this it’s easy to see our own failures and conclude that we must, therefore, be journeying on the way of the wicked—even if we don’t want to be!

But even though none of us can be perfectly righteous on our own, we can still travel the way of the righteous. In fact, we are called to it. We are called by God to grow in Christlikeness.

That’s why it’s about a direction, not perfection. Are we headed in the right direction? Are we committed to that “set of moral choices” which we encounter in the footsteps of Jesus?

If you are “in Christ,” then you are righteous before God. That’s because his righteousness, goodness, purity and faithfulness are credited to your account. But for our part, we continue to grow in godliness while here on earth.

Choose the way of the righteous, and don’t be discouraged when you mess up. It’s about a direction, not perfection.


–“The Two Ways.” Sermon based on Psalm 1. Click here.

–“An introduction to the psalms.” Click here to watch a video introduction I put together on the psalms. [Teachers and preachers, feel free to use for free—no credit necessary.]

–*Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary (W.W. Norton, 2007).

–Bible quotes are from the NIV.

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