“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
In order for a nation to be healthy and successful, the people of the nation must act “rightly.” Personal integrity and public order are a necessity for building a just, free, and stable human society. It is foolish to expect a nation to operate effectively if its citizens behave out of alignment with God’s standards. The OT nation of Israel certainly bears witness to this reality.
As you will recall from earlier studies, the Hebrew word for “righteousness” is tzedek, and it means “rightness” … that is, it refers to something or someone who operates rightly and in alignment with how it is designed. God is the great Designer, and he has established the standards of tzedek. There is a way that God has designed people and nations to operate
A healthy nation requires citizens to operate with “rightness” in three essential areas. These three characteristics of tzedek are what exalt a nation. If citizens neglect any of these three areas, it puts a nation at great risk.
Virtue. This is when people live and work in alignment with God’s moral standards. It is when individuals honor God in their personal conduct and in the national policies they promote and support.
Personal responsibility. This is when people take ownership of their contribution to the health of the nation and its culture. It is when people acknowledge that national culture begins with personal character.
Productivity. This is when people operate every day with a strong work ethic. When people work hard and are productive.
When the citizens of a nation have these characteristics, the nation will succeed. But if these characteristics are lacking among the citizens, a nation will struggle and eventually fail. The Greek philosopher Plato (5th century BC) said it very succinctly: “A city is what it is because its citizens are who they are.”
It is a timeless truth: The culture of a society will never be any better than the character of its citizens.