Words often get hijacked and repurposed, especially in modern day English. If you had asked my parents what the words cool and hot meant, they would have talked to you about temperature. Ask my grandparents and they might have told you that cool meant something that was popular or en vogue, but that hot was still reserved for whether something had come fresh out of the oven or sitting in the summer sun. When I was a young man (many moons ago) hot took on a slightly different meaning, and became the way that the world referred to attractive people. Same words, completely different meanings.
Nowadays all the cool kids (if there really are such things) have really gone off the rails with their usage of language. A few years ago things that used to be cool became “fire” and then it somehow graduated to “lit.” A word that used to mean that something was slowly and steadily leaking from your bathroom faucet, drip, became the way that people referred to spendy and trendy jewelry – and a lingo that got it’s start in the feelings realm, vibe, suddenly became a way to refer to a physical place or space. That’s right, people are really saying, “this place is such a vibe.” I am officially the old man, sitting on my porch, yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.
Why do I bring this all up? Somewhere in the eighties, someone thought they’d change the game as it applies to the word righteous. What used to mean in some form or fashion to be right with God, to be holy, or to have just cause for doing something – became the way a middle aged woman referred to Ferris Bueller, who was taking the day off. The madness didn’t stop there, as soon enough Pauly Shore was using the word while trapped in a Biodome and meeting his new in-laws on the farm, all in an attempt to say that something or someone was ultimately, cool…. at least in the more recent sense of the word. Even a turtle trying to help some fish find Nemo started saying it, corrupting another generation and leading them astray.
This becomes important because each year around this time, we remember an event that on it’s face, paints Jesus in a light that we haven’t really seen Him before, and it understandably gives Christians and non-Christians alike some pause about who this man really is. In his gospel, Mark records it this way;
Mark 11:15–19 (ESV)
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.
Driving people out with a whip? Flipping tables and raising His voice? Calling people thieves and making people afraid? This doesn’t FEEL like the Jesus we knew. Worse yet, it makes some people wonder – isn’t anger sinful? Isn’t this Jesus demonstrating that He’s just a normal, fallen guy, like you and me? Perhaps now you’re beginning to see why defining your terms is important.
It’s probably true that Mr. Shore wouldn’t refer to this version of God’s Son as righteous, nor would anyone compare him to Ferris or want to skip school with Him to go to a Cubs game. But when we examine the ORIGINAL definition of the word, suddenly this Jesus becomes a whole lot more righteous. He has, a valid, understandable and purposeful anger – based on a foundation of truth. His disdain for the money changing and pigeon selling, comes from the knowledge that these people are taking what is supposed to be a place where people come to meet and experience God, and instead providing nothing but distraction from anything remotely religious. It has become just another place for people to profit, and Jesus, isn’t having ANY of it. His anger isn’t sinful, inaccurate or even misplaced – it’s RIGHTEOUS – in the truest sense of the word.
In these final days, Jesus’ life has become much more immediate. He is keenly aware of what is to come, and the importance of using what time He has left, to try and make people understand. God is on the move. He is calling all people onto Himself. His desire, to know them, and to be known by them. His instrument – His one and only Son. God in human form. Preaching parables, performing miracles, and even turning a few tables along the way. All with one simple goal in mind – reminding the world exactly what it means to be, totally righteous.