Self-righteousness is a problem. It has plagued people since the start of time, and we will continue to struggle against self-righteousness until God ends everything. Proverbs 29 highlights three struggles we face with self-righteousness.
Self-righteousness and Reproof
Someone who made a mistake doesn’t need reproof. We all make mistakes and correct them when we recognize our errors. Life is a constant series of course corrections. Reproof is necessary when someone won’t change. They made a mistake, but they’re unwilling to do anything about it.
This is the ugly truth about self-righteousness: we think we’re always right. In fact, we feel the need to be always right. We have such a high view of ourselves and abilities that failure can quite literally not be an option. Have you ever talked to someone who refused to recognize the possibility they might be mistaken? That usually indicates self-righteousness. It doesn’t matter how often you show them “the facts”; they’ve made up their mind and aren’t going to budge.
Self-righteousness and Stubbornness
Everyone is blind to some of their mistakes. Not knowing everything we do wrong doesn’t make us self-righteous, it makes us human. God alone (thankfully) knows all our faults, but we should be willing to correct the mistakes we know we’ve made.
If we believe in God’s grace and mercy, then changing ourselves isn’t a big deal. If we trust in ourselves to earn God’s forgiveness, then any change is an admission that we’re a failure. We will galvanize our resistance rather than change.
Self-righteousness and Judgment
There is a sense in which sin has broken every one. We know the right thing to do, but we choose wrong anyway. We recognize this when we repent and seek forgiveness in Christ.
Self-righteousness will keep us from repentance. This is bad because “repentance…leads to life” (Acts 11.18). If we’re unwilling to repent, then we’re purposefully choosing death.
The good news is we have Jesus, and in him is the forgiveness of sins. We don’t have to earn forgiveness; we can let go of all pretext of self-righteousness and personal perfection. Those things aren’t necessary.
Faithfulness is necessary. That’s what God wants from us. He has always wanted his children to be faithful, and he has always been willing to forgive their sins when they were.
In Christ, we have the freedom to admit our mistakes and change. Yes, we must confess we were wrong about something or missed the mark in some way. But it also means we have access to the grace and mercy God makes available through Jesus.
I can have eternal life with God in heaven if I will only give up trying to earn it. That sounds like a good trade every day of the week!