Saturday, June 09, 2007

The sin of self-righteousness

Grand Sweep Daily Reading: Esther 1, 2, 3; Psalm 97

Psalm 97:12 (NIV)

12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise His holy name.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.

Good morning!

“God doesn’t like ugly!” I first heard this phrase as I was watching the movie “The Preacher’s Wife” on the big screen several years ago. Dudley, the angel sent by God to bring hope to a depressed pastor and his discouraged family one Christmas, spoke these words in response to their self-serving, unhappy attitudes. I love this quote, because it resonates in my life. Have you ever felt justified in your own self-righteous behavior? When I begin to spout my opinions to anyone who will make time to listen, I begin to look a little like Pigpen in those Charlie Brown cartoons. The dirt simply gravitates to me, clumping up and making me totally miserable inside and out.

When I was a child, I learned early on that it was inappropriate to express an opinion contrary to that of my elders. When I became a parent, I thought it might be a good thing to allow our children freedom of expression without fear of retaliation. I wanted them to be self-motivated, free-thinkers; able to choose what they believed and to make sound decisions about life and how they would go about living it. I thought I was doing them a favor. Was I ever wrong! Good intentions only go so far. Let me share a little secret with you: I have three of the most opinionated children on the face of God’s green earth! There are times when I need to carry a fire-proof shield to protect myself from the fiery darts they fling in moments of self-righteousness and revelation. I admit I find myself just a little embarrassed because I know that deep down inside, they are only emulating their mother, and they do a really good job at it! Watching my children spar with each other is a whole lot like looking in a mirror. It is a good thing the Lord did not bless us with ten children, because I’m here to tell you there is no way I would have ever survived.

Ironically, this is what happens when God gave all of us the free will to choose right from wrong. The Lord, the giver of life, created each one of us, and set us free to live out our days in the light of His love. He leaves it up to you and to me to choose whether to follow Him or reject Him. Somewhere along the way, we begin to lose sight of our Creator. We take authority over the things of our life. We make choices that define who we are. We begin to form opinions through life experience and educational pursuits. It is easy to become self-absorbed at times, even to the point of believing that we have the ability to fix and manage whatever comes our way, all by ourselves. We begin to think that we deserve the best of everything, worthy to climb to the top of the ladder, no matter who we step on to get there. We stop caring about our neighbors. We ignore the children who are hurting. We live life large – we are in charge and as long as we get what we need, it is all that really matters. We forget that the sum of our daily living is a gift from God, and that He has a greater plan for each of us to pursue. We get sidetracked trying to do our own thing, and we forget who is truly in charge. Have you ever found yourself living in a place of self-service?

The older I get, the more I realize there is not a lot self-manufactured good in me. Whenever I try to live on my own steam, basking in self-righteousness, I find myself drowning due to the millstone wrapped securely around my neck. The sheer weight of it pins me face down on the floor. It gets lonely there. For one thing, when I’m looking at the floor, it is difficult to look up. There is no one to talk to but myself, and I don’t even want to listen to me when I pop an “ugly” attitude. Whenever I step out on my own steam, trying to right the wrongs of the world, with all that hot air blowing out of my mouth, I end up getting burned. No, I have learned the only righteousness that lives within me is the righteousness of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When I gave my life to Him, He took my heart and began to reshape it. As I study His life and teachings, I begin to wonder how He might respond in certain situations. What kind of choices would He make with the people placed in my path? His message of repentance and forgiveness reverberates into my very being. It is His righteousness that I long for. My self-service is just that – self-service. And that, my friends, is utterly worthless. My Jesus is worth emulating. He is the only one able to lead me back home.

The next time an “ugly” attitude pops into your brain, ask yourself whether this thought is self-serving or if it is serving others. We fall into the sin of self-righteousness when we forget to look at the One who is truly sinless. Thank God for the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He covers all my sin and self-serving behavior. And it is with that assurance, that I can live my life within the umbrella of His righteousness alone. Less of me and more of Him; this is my prayer today.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Pray for: God to grab your heart, convict you of the ways in which you may be living in a self-centered environment, and give you the desire to lay it all out before Jesus at the foot of His cross. His blood will cover your sin and help you let go of the “ugly” things that keep you separated from Him. Won’t you let Jesus Christ become your only righteousness today?


© Copyright 2007, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.