Who Loves Self-Righteousness (hint: we all do)

Self Righteousness… does anyone like it? You know the type… those who walk around like they’re holier than thou, judging everyone else for not being as godly as they are.

And yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, we all love self-righteousness. We believe that we are better than others. If I think ABC is right, and you think ABC is wrong, then I’m probably not changing my mind anytime soon. Why is that? Because our default setting is self-righteousness. We are the kings and queens of our kingdoms, and what we desire is almost always viewed as good and right and beautiful. Those who oppose us are grabbing for power, judgmental, or they’re just plain wrong.

But here’s the thing… you can’t be a Christian and be self-righteous. Christianity looks to the righteousness of another. The gospel calls us to confess our unrighteousness and to trust fully in the righteousness of Christ. The Christian is fully dependent on Christ’s righteousness.

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Integrity & Potato Chips

Don’t be a bag of potato chips. We’ve all been there: you buy the bag, get home, then after opening it you cry out, “Where are all the chips! There’s more air in here than anything else!” Sure, the bag gave the illusion of being full. You’re disappointed, but there were enough chips to convince you to buy another bag next time you get a craving.

The word “integrity” means “full, complete, whole.” That bag of chips had no integrity. It appeared to be full, but it was not. It can be so tempting for us to present ourselves in a certain way (in the best cases, we’re trying to live into who we want to be; in the worst cases, we’re manipulating people). Sooner or later, our integrity will make itself known.

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Self-Righteousness

Self Righteousness… does anyone like it?  You know the type… those who walk around like they’re holier than thou, judging everyone else for not being as godly as they are.  That’s basically the stereotype that every Christian needs to fight against (see the above image!).

But here’s the thing… you can’t be a Christian and be self-righteous.

Self-Righteousness says:

  • “I am better than you are.”
  • “I am good enough to be acceptable to God.”
  • “You can’t judge me, only what I believe matters.”
  • “You need to do and believe what I do and believe, because I’m the one who’s right.”

Those are things no Christian can say.  If you are a Christian and you say those things, then you have not understood the Gospel.  (Yes, I realize the irony here. Before you accuse me of being self-righteous, please finish reading this post.)

As Christians, we completely rely on Jesus’ righteousness, not our own.  The only thing my righteousness earns for me is judgment (Romans 3:23-24, 6:23).  The Gospel shouts, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

The ironic thing about accusations of “Self-Righteousness” is that every religion other than Christian actually teaches self-righteousness.  I know that’s a huge claim to make, and I’m willing to be proven wrong in the comment section below, but I do think it’s true.  Only Christianity teaches that we are acceptable to God because of someone else’s righteousness; other religions and philosophies teach that you are required to improve yourself before God in order to “attain righteousness.”

When we build our understanding of “truth” on our own interpretations or opinions then aren’t we defending our own self-righteousness by saying that we are the ultimate knower and determiner or what is real?  Instead, when we rely on what God has revealed through the Holy Scriptures and we seek to understand what God has spoken and how the Scriptures still speak today (2 Timothy 3:16-17), then we are again relying on the righteousness of the God who speaks rather than on ourselves.

Ultimately, Christians, we must remember that we are not self-righteous… we fully rely on the righteousness of Jesus.  Let us live in such humble and faith-full way that the righteousness of Jesus would shine through us, and give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

I don’t want anyone else to be more like me!  I want them to be more like Jesus… because I want to be more like him too.

(note: this post originally was published on my ministry’s blog here as “Thinking About Self-Righteousness”)