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.