One cannot really separate basic human rights and righteousness, for those who are unrighteous will ignore the basic rights of others, and those who are righteous will uphold and the basic rights of others. However, there is nonetheless a fundamental difference between living a life insisting on one’s rights compared to living a life insisting on righteousness.

Insisting on the rights of another is a righteous thing (love your nieghbour as yourself), but insisting on your own rights is almost guaranteed to produce unrighteousness in your thoughts and consequently in your actions.

Insisting on righteous is different. An insistence on righteousness from others has an inherent, build-in requirement of insisting on righteousness from yourself too. Righteousness is not merely a noble end, but is also a noble means towards that end.

One can insist on one’s own rights while completely ignoring the rights of others. But insisting on righteousness requires righteousness. Righteousness is too lofty a term to come in an incomplete form. Insisting on righteousness without oneself being righteous is rightly called hypocrisy, for it denies the very definition of righteousness.

Unlike human rights, righteousness is defined by God. There is divine morality and authority that is part of righteousness. Righteousness holds to a timeless and trans-cultural standard of right VS wrong. Righteousness addresses not only what you want from others, but also what you owe others.

That is why the Ten Commandments are stated as commandments requiring God-like righteousness from all, instead of a list of human rights (Exodus 20:3-17). That is why Scripture requires of mankind to first look at the sinful issues in your own heart before you judge the actions of another (Matthew 7:1-5). That is why the Golden Rule says “do to others as you would have them do to you” and not “do to others as they did to you” (Matthew 7:12). That is why the greatest two commandments are “love God” and “love neighbour”, not “love self” and “be loved” (Matthew 22:38-39). That is why the ultimate purpose of life is defined in terms of God, not self, nor even society (Matt 5:48; 1 Peter 1:16).

Christian, insist on your righteousness more than you insist on your rights. Seek to fulfil your divine obligations more than you seek to fulfil your felt needs. Live a life of duty more than you live a life of privilege. Expose to all the glory of God more than you expose the importance of self. Insist on righteousness—for yourself, and your manner in which you insist on it from others too.