We’ve probably all heard this term or even used it about others, right ? What exactly does this mean ?
We tend to think of this term as meaning someone who thinks they are perfect or at least on a higher plane then anyone else. In any case, the reality is that this is simply man’s concept . Knowing that we should never settle for man’s concepts on spiritual matters, what does God say about this matter ?
Two thoughts on this ;
First of all we must accept God’s view on this term of self righteous. From His perspective we must accept the fact that there are but two forms of righteousness ; that imputed to us through the provision of Jesus Christ, the only perfect and righteous man or else those who seek to justify themselves for a righteousness of their own. Since none are good or perfect, no not one, this means that man must rectify his own errors and deficiencies. This is referred to in Proverbs saying, “Every man’s ways are clean (justified) in his own sight”.
Jesus once said, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts”.
In Luke it says, “But he, desiring to justify himself, said unto Jesus…”
Thus, we can say that a self righteous person is one who does not abide in the righteousness of Christ but rather seeks his own will and justifies everything he does to maintain a righteousness of his own making. To abide in the righteousness of Christ then, we must say that this is one who has first of all accepted the provision of Christ as his righteousness and then to forsakes his own vain and futile efforts. This means that one must always seek the inner guide of the Spirit of truth for all right and wrong and to heed it. If we do err, then we repent…we DO NOT explain it away or self justify, else this is self righteousness !
Now, the other thought has to do with how this term is generally used which is as a reaction to our being the salt of the earth and speaking against what is wrong. Generally speaking, when we are told we are in error, we will respond in one of two ways. If we abide in the righteousness of Christ only, we shall listen with a humble heart and seek a sense from the Holy Spirit as to whether in fact we are in error or not. If we get the sense that we are in error then we will repent and enjoy the inner sense of forgiveness, life and peace ! The more likely reaction, however will be that we will bow up in self defense, and immediately begin to either attack the messenger (calling them self-righteous and perhaps even more harsh names), and/or else we will begin to justify our actions, motives or words that have been called into question.
To do this means that we do not in fact abide in the Lord, and as a result have no choice but to begin to justify ourselves. This is “self righteousness” indeed ! It is SELF righteousness in that we are making the effort to maintain our own individual righteousness apart from Christ by reasoning out in detail as to why we did, said or thought a certain thing that someone singles out as wrong.
We must realize then, what it is to abide in Christ. In Christ, you see, we simply have NO righteousness of our own. In this position, we therefore have no cause for objection or self defense if someone were to point out our errors ! In fact, in this blessed state, we would be most happy if someone were to inform of us of any error knowing that this is an opportunity to abide in Christ all the more ! Since we no longer recognize a righteousness of our own, we are all too happy to know our weaknesses because of the fact that when we are weak, then we are strong. To acknowledge our sins, errors and weaknesses is to abide in Christ all the more and solidify our selves upon the solid rock ! Conversely, to begin to justify and make excuses is to step outside of Christ so as to build our own sense of self righteousness and esteem, thus we are in danger of taking our stand in self rather than in Christ.
I’m sure I do not need to speak of why this is foolishness for us…