Do you think you are a pretty good child of God; thanking God that you are not like all the sinners around you (Luke 18:11)? Job thought so. However, after Job “sputtered out all the reasons why he was so good and why he did not deserve to suffer God confronted him with a series of direct questions. Through His questioning God pointed out that Job was actually trying to correct God (Job 40:2);” and this comeuppance stunned Job back to reality and into silence. Job literally said, “Behold I am vile; let me shut my mouth” (Job 40:4).

Our subject for today is self-righteousness. “Self-righteousness is tricky because it is equal parts flesh and righteousness.” You see often times we are partially correct in our assessment of others, but too often our attitude toward others is wrong. So we often speak out of place and assume unbecoming positions. We correct or judge when we should just shut up and let God work things out. 

Interestingly, while some of us enjoy judging others, we do not like being judged ourselves. In reality, men and women resent being judged because they know they are guilty… and they hate for their hearts and sins to be revealed.

Job’s story shows us a way out of our delusions. First we have to see ourselves clearly, realizing who we really are, and then repent of what we see. We need to clap our hands over our mouths and admit to God and ourselves that we too are train wrecks and atone for our presumptions. Second we have to pray for those others for our own good (Job 42:10). But do not allow your forgiveness to start a second cycle of righteousness. Do not think: “I am better than you, so I forgive you.”  “When we forgive out of our shame of being a train wreck and in the joy of being forgiven ourselves then we start to sever the roots of self-righteousness.”

So the bottom line is that we do not want to judge unrighteously and certainly not from a self-righteous posture; however judgment in itself is not always wrong. In John 7:7 our Lord said, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I testify that its works are evil” (NIV). Today Jesus would be castigated for pointing out the evils of our society. And because He pointed out the evils of society in His time, people in His day considered Him a hater. But God’s judgment is actually priceless: “it burns away the evil parts of our heart without harming the good that is there.”

Jesus’ ministry was revolutionary to the point that some thought Him wicked. Some people said to Him, “You have a demon!” (John 7:20). Therefore to be like Jesus can be so contrary to conventional wisdom that people may even think that we are evil. The fact is that Jesus often divided people rather than united them. Now unity is a noble goal, but not at the expense of truth. And it is a false expectation to think that all people can be united. Now because He is truth, and because truth is unyielding and must conquer, those who submit to truth unite with Jesus and those who resist truth unite against Him.

So we must reconcile ourselves to the reality that to follow Jesus may mean that we too must speak out against evil, be hated, be thought demonic, and be polarizing. You see, Jesus is not the people-pleaser that many reduce Him to be. However, to avoid self-righteousness, Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Remember that God wants to make us more like Himself. When He judges, He burns away our ugliness so we can start to look beautiful. We should do likewise.

“God’s judgment is also freeing.  God judged (divided out) sin on the cross. The cancer that was killing us from the inside has been removed! But our striving to be liked by the world, whether by our own culture or another culture, can be problematic if we would prefer to be like Jesus.” Moreover, we do not have Christ’s skill set. So in general, “do not judge, so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). Remember Job: we are vile, and it is usually better if we just keep our mouths shut.

~ Carlos M.