What Is Self-Righteousness?

If you don’t know what self-righteousness is, you will not be able to guard yourself against it.  It is so important for you to be able to recognize it when rises to the surface. It is one of the most subtle traps that snares many believers who are sincerely trying to live a life that is pleasing to God.

Simply put, self-righteousness is when you think you are MORE righteous or better than someone else. This applies even when you think you are more righteous than ONE other person!  Yes, that is self-righteousness, and we have all been there and done that at one time or another.  In fact, self-righteousness it what causes some, to be judgmental of other believers and other Churches.

Those who are self-righteous, not only think that they are righteous, but despise and look down on those they consider to be less righteous than they are. This is why this form of spiritual pride is so distasteful and abhorrent to God.

Jesus addressed this area of pride, in the following parable, known as The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, found in Luke 18:9-14:

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’

“And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other;
for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who HUMBLES HIMSELF will be exalted.”  (emphasis

Those who sincerely try to live a holy life, must be very careful not to fall into this trap. It is the snare of the enemy. In fact, you will notice that if the devil can’t draw someone back into the world, then his other tactic is to push them into acting more spiritual than everyone else around them. This is why you need to guard yourself from ever acting super spiritual or super holy, because it means you are trying to exalt yourself above those around you.

Now self-righteousness is based on two things:  The things you do as a believer, and the things you don’t do. Just because you go to Church, read your Bible and pray every day, and pay your tithes, does not make you more holy or righteous than anyone else. And, just because you don’t smoke, drink, gamble or do drugs, does not make you more holy or more righteous than anyone else. Your holiness and your righteousness is before God and God alone. This is why you can never look down on anyone else who may not seem to be as spiritual as you are.

According to Jesus, the solution to self-righteousness is to always humble yourself. In fact, you will find this same key to humility throughout the Word of God. This is how you walk in a manner worthy of your calling as one of God’s saints – this is how you please God!

Finally, you can see this proper attitude in the life of the Apostle Paul.  In his letter to the believers in Ephesus, he referred to himself as “less than the least of all the saints.” Ephesians 3:8. This was the humility of the Apostle Paul: he did not see himself as greater, more holy or more righteous than any other saint in the Church. This is the same image you need to maintain of yourself, if you sincerely desire to live a holy life.

You are holy!

In my next post, we will look at “Judging Others”.
Steve Smith


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