The Slippery Slide of Self-Justification


There is no arbiter between us,
who might lay his hand on us both. — Job 9:33

So in chapters 9-10, we read Job's second response. But instead of responding directly to Bildad, who has been quite harsh, it appears Job is now trying to figure out how he can plead his case to God. These two chapters are very poetic and may appear worshipful, yet it has subtle undertones of what we call "righteous indignation." Job is weighing the greatness of God against the smallness of creation and his own life. Thus as he speaks, he begins to make himself a little too big and God a little too small. He wants a courtroom meeting with God because he is looking to justify himself — and this is a dangerous move.

I discovered a long time ago that self-justification is often my first line of defense when I feel cornered. I turn to self-justification to preserve my position when others put me to the test. This happens mostly when I am tested with people who know me well who see this disconnect in my integrity. People like my spouse and my children point this out the most. Therefore when tested, I will sometimes, not always, become defensive and use self-justification to preserve myself. I fortify my position by explaining, defending, and justifying my actions.

But let's remember that Job has done nothing wrong in this context to be deserving of his suffering. Let's also remember that his friends are making this worse by demanding that he has done something wrong to deserve his suffering. And because Job does not see the connection between his suffering and righteousness, he wants to prove these men wrong and vindicate himself. But what's ironic is that in trying to justify himself, he is no longer justifying his righteousness to Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. He is justifying himself to God. He is asking for God to justify him before his friends so he can prove them wrong. And thus, he has pushed too far. Satan has him. He is now elevating his righteousness and thus himself a little too much. Thus we learn from Job that even when we are right, we can handle it wrong.

Do you see the slippery slide of self-justification?

You know we all have moments like this. Moments we feel cornered. Moments we feel overwhelmed. Moments we feel trapped. And thus, we end up relying too much on ourselves and not enough on God. We self-preserve using self-justification because we trust ourselves and our own understanding more than we trust God. And thus we fall into the devious trap of Satan.

For those of you struggling with this today, here are some words for you to hold to from Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. — Proverbs 3:5-6

ASK THIS: Have you fallen into the trap of self-justification lately? (Share how in the comments below. Be brave. I know it can be challenging).

DO THIS: Rectify it first with God and then with others.

PRAY THIS: God, forgive me for justifying myself to others and to you.

PLAY THIS: Purify My Heart.


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Read through the Bible daily with Vince Miller.

11 thoughts on “The Slippery Slide of Self-Justification

  1. Eddie Ackerman says:

    My grandma, who was joking with me yesterday about healthy eating. I pulled out Google to show her that 3 eggs per day is a healthy amount…

  2. Brian says:

    Blaming my parents and things that happened to me as a kids for the sins I did myself. For taking the changes God has made and getting an attitude that I am good. I know I need to always be mindful of my thoughts and action. Because without God’s constitent help I will make a mess of my life.

  3. Alex Coon says:

    Mainly, using my limited time as a Christian to make my excuses of stumbling or feigning ignorance.

  4. Jason Taylor says:

    I struggle with self justification especially with my wife and late teenage kids. Immediate family is a challenge because they know me well. We are all Christians but know each others smallest downfalls & sins. Even when I feel I’m correct over them in a situation I know I must continue to strive for humility and trust God. It is a hard balance as the leader of the home.

  5. Cory B says:

    Arguably my biggest downfall. I don’t necessarily need to be right, just not wrong. I did this because… I went here because… I’m late because… or my favorite, I said that because you said… Sadly I don’t even realize it until it’s too late or someone brings it to my attention and then I get more defensive and fight or shutdown completely or become dismissive.

    I believe my fear of not being good enough is what drives this. I fear that others may judge me harshly. Probably because I can be judgmental at times. If this person knew why I did or said something, they would understand me better.

  6. Ed says:

    When I self-justify I’m almost always comparing my righteousness to others, usually picking and choosing areas I do not struggle in and trying to make myself feel better by mocking their struggles while avoiding dealing with my own. It’s unfortunate but true…. the old shift and blame game… kinda what Adam did in the garden when God asked him about what he had done with the Apple… “the woman you gave me”…… I often wonder what might have happened if Adam (and all of us) would have taken the responsibility or even better not eaten of the apple, even after Eve had….. it seems like we want the savior part, but struggle mightily with the lord part of the lord and savior title our God has….

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