April 23, 2018
Being “self-righteous” used to be a characteristic that religious people were accused of, but that has certainly changed in the 21st Century. We now live in a society, where a so called lack of political correctness can have consequences for individuals and businesses who dare voice or practice their personal beliefs which are contrary to the mainstream. The politically correct accusers, who piously believe that everyone does or should believe the same way they do, demand that everyone agrees with them in their assessment of right and wrong, and are often backed up by the media, the entertainment industry, and politicians who think they are pleasing their constituency. A recent example of this caused an entire restaurant chain (Starbucks) to make adjustments to their policies and institute staff training because of the perception that some of their customers were not treated appropriately because of their race. At the same time another restaurant chain, (Chick Fil A) trying to establish itself in New York City, has faced threats and accusations because of the perception that the owners of the chain hold personal views regarding marriage that are based on traditional Christian values, and thus are politically incorrect. Today the slightest “politically incorrect” faux pas is met with outrage in social media, disgust from politicians and celebrities, and even the threat of legal charges against those that oppose the perceived politically correct position. So I believe that self-righteousness, and being judged for one’s beliefs, is no longer the sole property of the “religious” sector, but has become the property of politically correct activists in our society to try and get their way.
Do you remember the story of the woman who came to Jesus and washed His feet with her hair? Luke 7:37-38 “When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” One of the lessons that we can learn from this story is how Jesus rejected the self-righteousness of the Pharisee whose house he had been invited to. Luke 7:39 “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-that she is a sinner.” Maybe this man was annoyed that this woman had arrived at his house uninvited or maybe he was embarrassed that his guests had to see this disgraceful display form a woman who did not belong to his circle of friends. Whatever the reason for his displeasure, his attitude reflects the spirit of self-righteousness that many have today. The Bible warns us as believers against this sin. Proverbs 30:12-13 says, “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness. There is a generation oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up.” This proverb warns against the sin of self-righteousness. God condemns this sin here by telling us that it cannot make the self-righteous person pure. Romans 10:3-4 “Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Paul is writing that self-righteousness is an outward sign that someone has rejected God’s righteousness. A person who is self-righteous, displays their own legalistic self-pride and chooses to reject Christ who is full of grace and truth. It is no different in the secular world, as often those who make accusations are just as guilty of bias and prejudice as those that they accuse.
It’s probably safe to say that most of us come across self-righteous individuals often, and can relate to just how offensive they are to us. In Luke, Jesus teaches Simon Peter a lesson that is so important for each of us to learn in this day and age in which we live. Luke 7:40-47 “Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarius, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Just when we are getting a little full of ourselves, God reminds us that we need to stop and remember just how much He has forgiven us of, and just like the woman in this passage, it should lead us to worshiping Jesus, not feeling puffed up about our accomplishments. It should cause us to love sinners and desire to share with them how their sins can be forgiven, and it should result in our rejecting the spirit of self-righteousness and feeling that we are better than someone else.
God’s Word teaches us that as we reject self-righteousness we are to walk with humility. Humility brings blessings and unlocks more grace to a true servant of Christ. Self-righteousness is a characteristic of an unbeliever in Christ, not a Christ follower. The Bible talks about those who are self-righteous in Isaiah 65:5 God says, “‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.” It is important that our children and students see each of us as humble servants of God who are examples of humility and love them just as Jesus loves them, no matter what they may have say or do. Our opportunities to influence them quickly pass by. Our responsibility, by our instruction and our example, is to love them into a relationship with Jesus, who accepts each one, just the way they are.