Thoughts on Self-righteousness
In our North American society there are endless unwritten rules that are seen as virtues. If you follow them you are applauded as the 'enlightened' of society. These rules may include the following:
- "Be assertive,"
- "Look out for number one,"
- "Climb the corporate ladder,"
- "Be 'tolerant',"
- "Donate to charities,"
- "Be youthful and beautiful,"
- "Save the trees,"
- "Support women who kill inconvenient babies,"
- "Don't regret anything," etc.
In this environment it can be incredibly easy to get caught up in self-righteousness, while caring very little about offending a holy God.
While reading Calvin on 1 Tim. 4:1-5, I came across this passage in his commentary:
Men being by nature inclined to hypocrisy, Satan easily persuades them that God is worshipped aright by ceremonies and outward discipline; and, indeed, without a teacher, almost all have this conviction deeply rooted in their hearts. Next is added the craftiness of Satan to confirm the error: the consequence is, that, in all ages, there have been impostors, who recommended false worship, by which true godliness was buried. Again, this plague produces another, namely, that, in matters indifferent, men are laid under restraint; for the world easily permits itself to be hindered from doing that which God had declared to be lawful, in order that they may have it in their power to transgress with impunity the laws of God.
As hypocrites by nature, Satan easily persuades us that outward discipline is proper worship to God. Often we feel under restraint and full of guilt in matters that should be indifferent to Christians. True godliness can easily become buried resulting in the worst "plague," namely a self-righteousness that feels free to transgress the true laws of God.
While the misplaced restraints and hypocrisy of our society may be glaringly obvious to some, the same in our own lives may not be so easy to recognize. Self-righteousness is a subtle thing.
How often do we feel like God is more pleased with us when we do good works, or like He is far from us when we have not kept up on our 'Christian duties?' How often are we filled with anxiety as if the whole weight of the world was on our shoulders?
Many of us profess that we are saved by Christ alone, and yet feel the need to do certain things to feel saved, or maybe we feel saved but do certain things to feel more sanctified than others. I am not advocating lazy Christians who have no fruit in their lives. But what I am advocating is a change of focus from ourselves and what we are doing, to Christ and what He has done.
This seems very simple, but the full realization of our great salvation is profound. If we are Christ's, there is no more striving to be good enough. Our souls rest in the goodness of God, our hearts are overjoyed at the thought that we "who once were far off have now been brought near by the blood of Christ," our minds are at peace with full assurance as we serve God today because there is nothing to prove and nothing to lose. If Christ is ours, then we are His, and nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Rom. 8:38-39).