The Dangers of Self-Righteousness

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dangers of self-righteousness

Years ago, when I was first became a born-again believer, I struggled. It took me such a long time to pray that first prayer of accepting Jesus, and repenting of my sins, because I found it hard to see myself as a sinner in the first place.

I had that “good girl” reputation—I got good grades, and was for the most part well-behaved. Never smoked, drank alcohol, committed a crime, or any other thing that society would label as sinful. Teachers loved me, because I always did what I was told. But, I was still a sinner? What?

Perhaps you can relate. Regardless of whether you’re an atheist, a new believer, or a seasoned follower of Christ, it can be tempting to fall into that self-righteous mindset.

“I follow the rules! I’m generally a good person. I have a strong moral compass.” And we think that just because society deems us ‘good’, that we have no need of a Savior.

But as the Bible says in Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

When we carry that air of self-righteousness, while ignoring our sins, we are separated from God. Thus, one of the best ways to grow closer to God, is by repenting of our sin on a daily basis, seeking forgiveness, and asking God to help us as we try to live a holy life.

The Essence of Sin

In fact, the very essence of sin is this: Choosing to follow our own selfish desires, instead of living the way God intended us to. It’s the exact opposite of what Jesus instructed in Matthew 22:37-40, to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

Remember in the garden of Eden, when the serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (and then Adam chose to also eat the fruit)? The original sin was a desire to know what God knows. It’s saying to God, “I want to be my own god. I don’t want to live by your rules, I want to know everything you know, and make my own rules!”

In an instant, Adam and Eve went from knowing only the pure love of God and the bliss of Eden, to also knowing evil and being kicked out of the garden. And with evil now in the world, they faced harsh consequences such as painful childbirth, hard labor (work), and their son Abel being murdered by his own brother Cain. (See Genesis 3-4).

The Opposite of Sin = LOVE

Knowing this definition of sin—a rejection of God and His Perfect Love—it becomes easier to see the many ways we fall short.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
James 4:17 (NIV)

For example:

  • Ignoring a person in need.
  • Thinking impure thoughts (such as lust, or thoughts about harming someone, or wishing something bad would happen to your enemies).
  • Coveting your neighbors belongings.
  • Being disrespectful or rude towards another person.
  • Choosing selfishly at the expense of someone else. (Like not telling the cashier she forgot to ring up an item in your cart, even though you know she or another employee may get in trouble for it later).
  • Taking God’s name in vain.
  • Failing to stand up for another person who is being mistreated.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve committed every one of these sins at some point or another in my life. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But, thanks be to God that He sent His Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins! Through his amazing grace, we can be forgiven, set free, and made new each and every day. We’re not self-righteous—instead, we’re clothed in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.

new life in Jesus Christ

The BEST Kind of Righteousness

I will close with these verses from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which say more than I ever could:

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Philippians 3:8-9 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

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