You are kind, compassionate and giving. You never speak badly about anyone and everyone speaks highly of you.
You take in stray animals, feed the homeless and volunteer as a Big Brother/Big Sister.
You pick up trash on your daily walks and only allow clean foods in your system.
You don’t steal, lie, cheat, fantasize about your best friend’s spouse or abuse your children– if you have them.
Maybe you go to church, temple or another house of worship…or maybe you don’t. Everyone is entitled to follow their own path.
Perhaps you believe in God, in the oneness of the universe, in the exceptionalism of the human spirit, in the deity of nature or in none of the above.
So you look around and think, ‘Hey, I’m a good person’, especially when you compare yourself to your peers and the world at large.
But are you good enough?
Maybe you have some nagging doubts. After all, there was that one time you grabbed a close parking space right out from under an elderly woman– but you were in a hurry. On the whole, the scales are tipped in your favor.
So you come to the conclusion that, yes, I’m good enough.
If you ascribe to this belief, then in truth, what you are is self-righteous.
Most people would describe a self-righteous person as a religious person, usually a self-professing Christian who harshly judges others while neglecting to see their own faults and failures. While this is true, it applies to anyone who judges themselves by themselves, or in relation to the actions of others.
Jesus spoke about this in a parable:
“Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ (Luke 18:9-12 New Living Translation)
In contrast, Jesus shared this about the second man:
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14 NLT)
Why was the confessed sinner acceptable to God and not the “godly” man?
Because God’s standard of righteousness is higher than ours, and His mercy is greater than we can fully comprehend!
“The Bible’s standard of human righteousness is God’s own perfection in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word. Thus, God’s laws, as given in the Bible, both describe His own character and constitute the plumb line by which He measures human righteousness.” 1
By this standard we all fall short. How then can any of us measure up?
The truth is we can’t, not apart from Christ. None of us can ever live the holy, God-pleasing, perfectly obedient, intimately in tuned life that Jesus lived. And He lived it on our behalf. Then He died, freely giving His life as a substitute for our own, paying a price we could never afford, never pay off and never pay back.
When we look at people, we see “nice”, “friendly”, “smart”, “angry”, “stupid”, “worthwhile”, “worthless”, etc. God sees lost souls and He sees the redeemed. He sees His children and those who do not know Him yet. He sees the light of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life or the darkness that comes from an unregenerated spirit. The righteousness of Christ is the only righteousness we can lay claim to, the only one that is acceptable to God. It is not based on our perfection or perceived goodness, but upon the perfection of Christ. We are all sinners, saved by God’s loving grace when we believe it and receive it for ourselves.
“In this new life one’s nationality or race or education or social position is unimportant; such things mean nothing. Whether a person has Christ is what matters, and He is equally available to all.” Colossians 3:11 The Book, Living Bible Translation.
This is the basis, the foundation for a life lived with God. You don’t have to clean yourself up or “get right” with God before you can come to Him. You just have to come to Him and let Him make you right through the blood of His son. There is no other way.
He loves you, He will accept you warts and all—that’s why He sent Jesus.
Blessings and have a great week!
1 Got Questions Ministries http://www.gotquestions.org/righteousness.html