Day 4

Making Room for the Self-Righteous

from the reading plan

Matthew 7:1-5, Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 15:11-32, Luke 18:9-14, Romans 2:1-11, Romans 3:9-23

I like to think of myself as forgiving, gracious, and humble. This illusion is easy to keep up if I don’t look too closely at my heart. Somewhere in there, I’ve been keeping a little list of names, offenses, and follies about the people I would rather avoid, shouldn’t trust, or frown upon. How could he act that way? How could she say those words and strut about with that attitude? However, when I stop to reconsider, pray, and open my Bible, I find that once again I’ve got a log in my eye. My own eyes don’t see clearly. My own heart doesn’t judge rightly.

I am reminded of an anecdote about G.K Chesterton. According to the story, The Times of London posed this question to various reputable authors: “What’s wrong with the world?” Chesterton’s answer was brief: “I am.”

Such a confession is fitting for all of us. Though I may be inclined to judge others more harshly, I am guilty too. If the apostle Paul can call himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), then what should be my confession? How often have I arrogantly received God’s blessings as if they were merited by my own hard work, creativity, ingenuity, or integrity? How often have I fallen into sin and didn’t even notice? I bear the name of Christ, but in what ways do I live like the world?

Christ’s words are a thunderous rebuke: “You will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use” (Matthew 7:2). Paul echoes this, saying, “Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment?” (Romans 2:3).

What can we say to this? No one is righteous, none of us (Romans 3:10). In the face of God’s righteousness, I have no answer in myself. I lay my hand on my mouth (Job 40:4). The moment we start counting our righteousness, we are attempting to gain merit by means of the law. But this law rightly condemns us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). For this reason, the highest mark of the Christian walk is not personal righteousness, but repentance. Therefore, my heart should be open not only for the prodigal, but also for his self-righteous elder brother.

We have all been blessed with the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience. But God gives grace so that we may see our own blindness, that we may walk in His merits, and show mercy even as we have received mercy. God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

God has had mercy on my Pharisee heart, and has granted to me the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. If I understand this rightly, my heart will be truly humbled, not hypocritical. The result will be a gratitude that bears the fruit of Christ-likeness, and an openness to loving the self-righteous, even as Christ has loved me.

Written by Caleb Faires

Post Comments (8)

8 thoughts on "Making Room for the Self-Righteous"

  1. Dillon Davis says:

    Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. I have fallen into the trap of judging everyone and every situation as I see fit and I have not considered things from your perspective. Forgive me.

  2. Will says:

    Thank you Lord for loving us even when we elevate ourselves over others. Thank you for correcting our pride and bringing us back to you when we wander and when we judge.

  3. Shelby Beckworth says:

    This is a devotional every believer should read and reflect on.

    We are all sinners. The story of the prodigal son had always tugged on my heart strings.

    Father loves us all like that! I don’t want to be like the older brother but I know I have been many many times.

    We need to humble ourselves and realize that it is God who made us righteous. Then when we do good it is not because we are trying to be good. It because we know we have been created to do good and it will just be from a heart that wants to do good.

    Let us not judge but realize that we all need to repent.

  4. Chris says:

    The words of Matt Chandler ring in my ears on this one: “Pride is devastating because you expect everyone else to be the very thing you’re not. ”

    Definitely an area I need to work harder on growing and being aware.

    God help me with humility and love!

  5. Andrew Flack says:

    I could never hear enough of this topic. It’s something I believe everyone struggles with. And almost impossible to even be aware of. I used to go to a church where immediately walking in, you felt judged. If you said something, listened to certain music, wore clothes they didn’t approve of, or even how you’d worship or pray. And I’ve got friends at this church who reflect on that impression well. I constantly feel like I don’t wanna be with them and got to the point where I left and haven’t been since. I’ve had some contact with the attendants that I knew but not much. But I just realized that me keeping away from the humans that struggle with the sin of judgement makes me as bad as them. I’m judging them by not accepting them and loving them like the Lord would do. We might not see eye to eye. But its vital that we love everyone or else we’re just like them. I actually ran into the youth pastor there the other day and I had to ignore him and it was just awkward and strange and there was tension that didn’t need to be there. And now I realize through this whole experience that we deserve Gods love and grace as much as anyone else. Doesn’t matter if they’re a murderer, prostitute, thief, liar, whatever it is. We are all one. And we all deserve the same fate.

  6. Lukas Fortunato says:

    I love Chesterton’s response. To be able to look at all the evil in this world and say I’m no better takes genuine humility. However, in my own life I can see both the prodigal son and the older brother in me. I’ve been the one living in the far off land and I’ve also been the judgmental self righteous one. I’ve been humbled and I’ve also been haughty. Let it all lead me to repentance because it really is the highest mark of the Christian walk.

  7. Kevin says:

    Day 4: the way i judge others is how i will be judged. Holy smokes. That’s crazy to think about because if I’m honest with myself, i judge in some bad ways. It’s embarrassing. This passage is helping me realize the consequences of that, and shows me I’m not loving like Jesus did. I need to focus on this a bit and love others better.

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