Thursday, April 26, 2012

The many faces of self-righteousness

In an excellent article here, Jerry Bridges calls self-righteousness 'Gospel Enemy #1".  I agree.  What image comes to mind when you think of a self-righteous person?  Probably a snooty Pharisee from Jesus' day who made much of the details of the law at the expense of God's grace and truth.  I've heard a lot of Christians confess sins over the years, but self-righteousness is a rare confession.  The fact of the matter is, though, that self-righteousness is much more common - and deadly - than we usually think.  It takes on as many forms as the idols in which we try to find our 'ok-ness' with God and life.  Consider some examples from the workbook, Gospel Transformation (pp. 69-70):

  • Health-righteousness
    • "You're not eating well.  I had better enforce my dietary habits on you."
  • Language-righteousness
    • "You used the word 'fortunate' and 'lucky'.  Don't you believe in the providence of God?
    • "You ended that sentence with a preposition!"
  • Holiday-righteousness
    • "How on earth can you do that?  It's Christmas!" (or Easter, etc.)
    • "We have to have turkey.  It's Thanksgiving!"
  • Entertainment-righteousness
    • "You waste a lot of time watching sitcoms.  You should watch documentaries."
    • "You're going to the 38 Special/Night Ranger concert?  I only go to Christian concerts."
  • Finance-righteousness
    • "How could you spend so much money on that?  That's bad stewardship."
  • Theological-righteousness
    • "You really believe that?  Let me give you this book by ___________."
  • Political-righteousness
    • "You voted for who?"
  • Parenting-righteousness
    • "You have such poorly behaved children.  What I suggest...."
  • Me-focused-righteousness
    • "I can't believe she said that about me!"
  • Anti-Pharisee-righteousness
    • "You are so judgmental!  Don't you believe in grace?"
Please don't misunderstand, it's very good to be health conscious, to speak clearly, to enjoy celebrations, to kick back and rest in healthy ways, to be a good steward with your money, to think biblically, to care about political responsibility, to want to help struggling parents and to love grace, but any of those good things - and many more - can insidiously become Christ-substitutes and militate against the gospel.  They can all be expressions of self-righteousness, false pathways toward self-justification which may give us a temporary sense of peace and superiority, but which ultimately diminish the glory of Christ and leave those around us feeling condemned.  We'd all do well to remember Paul's words in I Corinthians 1:31, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."  Only through His righteousness will we find life and be conduits of life for others.

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