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Jesus Doesn't Like Self Righteousness

Matthew 7:1-5 is a difficult passage to swallow. The message is simple: don’t judge or you will be judged – and if you do judge, you will be judged by the same standard. Self-righteousness is the thing that allows us to get on our high horse and judge others; and I think self-righteousness can take two very distinct, very opposite forms.

#1: “I have never been overwhelmed by sin so I am more deserving of grace than all of those sinners”
It’s easy for us to conclude that for one reason or another we deserve grace more than other people. So, we develop a Jonah complex – God tells us to go to the people who are enveloped in sin that He might restore them but we refuse because we don’t think they deserve it. In Ephesians 2, Paul says that we were all once dead in our sins but God, who is rich in love, made us alive in Christ – not because of any good that we had done but because of his graceful heart. You might be familiar with this “dead-alive” terminology, and if you are it probably doesn’t pack the same punch as it must have originally. Death is the ultimate dark, empty, hopeless state of ‘not-any-longer-being’. It’s been said that it is the great equalizer – you can’t be more or less dead than anyone else. So, it is self-righteous to believe that anyone is less deserving of being restored than we are because we were all dead – and Jesus died for all that were dead in their sin, not just you and I. And when the writers of scripture say “all”, I think what they mean is, “all”.

#2: “All the other Christians just don’t get it the way I get it – they aren’t quite as spiritual as I am”
I think we are allowed to question the kind of fruit other followers produce. But since the life of Jesus is the standard, I can picture myself walking up to Jesus with their fruit in my hand and saying, “Look Jesus, this fruit isn’t that great”. And I can picture Him saying, “where is yours?” Then comes the dreadful part where I have to hope that my fruit stands up to the kind of scrutiny others had to endure from me. Whenever someone has a different take than we do, it’s easy to assume they are not as intelligent or spiritually advanced as us – but in reality it’s probably that those other Christians just have a different understanding of what it means to follow Jesus – and for the most part we know nothing of the actual fruit that others produce for the Kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean we can’t disagree with others or share our opinion with them– it just means that having a superior, elitist attitude about it makes us look a lot like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. And Jesus had some of the harshest things to say to these types. Here are a few examples:

“You cross land & sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are”.

“You are like the blind leading the blind. You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel”.

“You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup of the dish, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self-indulgence.”

Also, two of Jesus’ most famous parables “prodigal son” and “the good Samaritan” are about exposing the self-righteous attitude in the people who were listening to the story.

Self-righteousness tends to conveniently sit us in the place of judge – and it allows us to come to a place in our minds where we think that everyone that disagrees with us or takes an opposite approach as us is just wrong. The scary thing about it is that self-righteousness is a deceptive sin because its primary work is to blind us to the fact that we have issues by relentlessly pointing out the shortcomings of others. And Jesus didn’t like it.

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