Living Right but Getting It Wrong

Am I righteous?  Or am I self-righteous?  It is all too possible to be doing everything right, but to have an attitude that’s all wrong.  Jesus taught this to individuals (Luke 7:40-47), to seekers (Mark 10:17-24), and even to religious groups (Matt. 15:7,8).  From these examples, we see it’s possible to think we’re righteous when we’re not.  Jesus had to point out to these people their heart problems.  They couldn’t see it for themselves.  How can we make sure we’re not just outwardly righteous?

I can be living right, but getting it wrong if I compare my righteousness to others.  Jesus told a parable about a very religious man who felt pretty good about himself when he looked around and saw that others weren’t measuring up.  He made himself the standard of righteousness!  Jesus calls this kind of attitude “exalting oneself.”  He told this parable to those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous” and who “despised others” (Luke 18:9-14).  According to Webster, self-righteousness is “being convinced of one’s own righteousness, especially in contrast with the actions or beliefs of others.”  Jesus is our standard.  How does my righteousness compare to His?

I can be living right, but getting it wrong if I assume the worst in others.  When someone says (or posts) something  a little questionable, am I quick to correct, criticize, or condemn?   If I want to live right, I will be patient, tolerant, and loving, and viewing my fellow brothers and sisters through eyes of humility (Eph. 4:2).  This means I will give others the benefit of the doubt.  I will assume they are trying as hard as I am to live righteously.  “…In lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2:3).

I can be living right, but getting it wrong if I think everyone needs to hear my opinion on any given matter.  Do I feel my thoughts are that superior?  or important?  Do I think the choices I’ve made are what’s best for everyone else?  There ARE times when we must speak and teach.  We’re to share the gospel truth every chance we get.  But there are some areas where the decisions made are matters of personal opinion.  When the Bible leaves choices in the hands of individuals (there’s more than one right way to parent, or educate, or work, or date, or diet…), we must be careful not to elevate our own opinions.  “Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Rom. 12:16).  Rom. 14 makes it clear that there will be some areas in which we can disagree in opinion.  We’re not to “pass judgment on [others’] opinions” (v. 1), but to “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (v. 19).

How can we keep righteousness from becoming self-righteousness?   We simply honor others above ourselves (Rom. 12:10).

Prayer for Today:  May Your Son be my standard as I strive to live righteously and humbly.

Smothered in Praise

More than I should, I enjoy being acknowledged for something I’ve done.  “Honey, look how much money I’ve saved us this week by planning out all our meals!”  “Did you notice I set the coffee pot for you?”  As soon as Neal replies, “Great job!” or “Wow, thanks!” I smile with satisfaction.  Granted, I don’t prod anyone besides my husband for praise (at least not in an obvious way), but I realize I’ve got a problem with motives here.  Ideally, I should serve because I can and should, without expecting a pat on the back.  Ironically, most of the things I seek recognition for are things I’m supposed to be doing anyway.  They’re part of my responsibilities. They’re not second-mile deeds.  In order to curb my childish desire for praise, I tried an experiment.  I would go an entire week without mentioning a single accomplishment on my part.  I mentally geared up ahead of time, reminding myself that a mature Christian woman serves out of the goodness of her heart.  How did it go?  Well, let’s just say I found creative ways to seek praise.  Crawling into bed at the end of Day One, I said, “Mmm, I love the smell of freshly washed sheets.”  Neal dutifully replied, “Me, too.  Good job, Babe.”

My youngest son, Carl, shared something with me this morning that reminded me again to work on this prideful trait of mine.  He is studying ancient history, and told me the story of Draco.  Draco, who lived around 600 B.C., was a strict and serious Athenian.  He gained a reputation for harshness.  He ordered that even the smallest offense of the law be punishable by death.  People acknowledged him because he ruthlessly demanded it.  One day, Draco went to the theatre,  and when the public saw him, they threw their cloaks to him in order to honor him.  Unfortunately, he suffocated under the mass number of cloaks.  He was smothered in praise.  What he desired most became his downfall.

Seeking praise gets to be a bad habit, an unattractive character trait.  It’s a heart condition.  It’s nothing like the service that our Lord demonstrated for us, and commands of us.  We’re to serve in humility (John 13:1-17).  We’re to serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13).  We’re to serve with grace (1 Pet. 4:10).  And when we serve, we are to desire that God gets the praise and is glorified (1 Pet. 4:11).

Prayer for today:  Lord, help me renew my heart, seeking Your glory, not mine.

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