Do you know what it means to be self-righteous? It means to feel that you are morally and ethically superior than others. It often grows out a sense that your beliefs are intrinsically better than that of other people and that your follow those beliefs better than any other. This, of course, makes you the authority to be followed after (read sarcasm here). There is no small amount of pride when one is assured of one’s own righteousness. Self-righteousness is not a desirable trait, either to have or to see in other people. I am sad to say that there are numbers of Christians who flaunt this unfortunate trait.
This is unfortunate because right from the outset, God tries to teach people that there is absolutely nothing intrinsic in humanity that gives them the right to be called ‘righteous’. Sure, you may tell fewer lies than the guy down the street, but that only means that you lie less often. Sure, you may have never cheated on your spouse (like that sleezeball two concessions over), but man Liam Hemsworth looks good without a shirt! (Yep, women fall into that lust sin as much as men, they just don’t seem to think it is as big a deal to drool over a shirtless guy as it is for a guy to drool over a scantily clad woman).
That is what he is telling Israel in the first part of chapter 9. God is leading them into Canaan for two reasons: first because he promised it to Israel’s forefathers as their inheritance; second, because the nations in Canaan had piled up their disobedience and their wickedness before God. It has nothing to do with Israel’s intrinsic “rights” or because they were a better people than those other nations. In fact, God pokes Israel pretty good in verse 6: “Understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Talk about harsh love!
But this is a Biblical truth we would do well to pay attention to. We are not saved by our own intrinsic ‘right-ness’, because we don’t have any intrinsic right-ness. In fact, God asserts the opposite over and over again in scripture. We are not saved because we have earned it, or can earn it, or can obtain it through our own set of moral attributes, or because we have a right to it. We can’t save ourselves at all!
Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Instead of asserting our righteousness, the Bible commands us to: ” Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10)
You are going to read about righteousness a lot from now on as we move through the Bible (a little over 200 times in total). As you read that word, watch to see how it is used, where righteousness comes from and how righteousness if attributed to us. You will find that righteousness is God’s and God’s only. You will find that he bestows righteousness on us as we have faith in Jesus Christ. You will find that righteousness grows in us only when we enter into deeper communion with God through prayer, reading scripture and submitting to the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is always a gift from God, never, ever, something we are able to attain on our own, and it is never, ever something we can lay claim to.
For a really clear picture of the difference between self-righteousness and humble faith, read Jesus parable in Luke 18.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Deuteronomy 11-13