The Lie of Self-Righteousness


If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind?
    Why have you made me your mark?
    Why have I become a burden to you? — Job 7:20

So now we get to hear Job's first response to his three friends. Keep in mind the dialogue between Job and his friends will go back and forth a while, and I will only highlight a few comments from each of these men. This verse is fascinating because we get to hear Job respond to what he's thinking about Eliphaz's first remarks. Recognize Eliphaz suggested that Job needs to repent of his sin.

In the greater context of Job's response, we see that Job is just commenting about his experiences and the challenges. But here, it appears he momentarily turns to pose a question to God. We might imagine he looks up to the heavens and asks, "God, what did I do to you to deserve this?" And in this statement, we catch a subtle glimpse of self-justification. It's as if Job is looking for proof of his sin. But what's ironic is that in asking the question, he takes a step toward self-righteousness.

Self-righteousness is this. It's the idea that we are morally right and righteous of our own doing. And thus, when we come to this conclusion — that we are a right man in right standing, we believe we deserve certain rights. But this is a lie. It's a corrupt manner of thinking. There is no one who is right or righteous by his own doing. And the problem here is that Eliphaz has seeded this thought with his corrupt theology suggesting righteous people don't suffer, which supports a theology of self-righteousness. And now it appears Job justifies himself in response to this idea which results in the same corrupt end — a self-righteous question of God. And the reason why I want to note this is that self-righteousness is an insidious move toward self and away from God. Mature forms of self-righteousness lead to all kinds of hypocrisy and have a damaging effect on others hearing a gospel of grace.

C.S. Lewis once said this, "A cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute."

But self-righteousness is a challenge for everyone all the time. It can be challenging when times are good or times are bad. And the best thing for us to do when self-righteous thoughts occur is sacrifice them. Sacrifice them to our righteous God. For as soon as we think "I deserve this" or "I don't deserve that," we've probably taken a step toward self-righteousness, and we need to correct course in our thinking before we become, as Lewis said, "cold, self-righteous prigs." 

So today, will you join me in sacrificing any self-righteous thoughts, motives, or actions by getting right with a righteous God?

ASK THIS: What self-righteous thoughts, motives, and actions do you need to sacrifice to God?

DO THIS: Go low before God by giving him your self-righteousness. (Share the pride that trips you up in the comments below).

PRAY THIS: God, forgive me for my self-righteousness.

PLAY THIS: Nothing but the Blood.


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24 thoughts on “The Lie of Self-Righteousness

  1. Eddie Ackerman says:

    I believe that all parents are SUPPOSED to be given respect unless or until it is taken away by their own actions, but my kids like to continually disrespect me and not do what they are told. God, please help me have patience with my kids when they are being disrespectful, intentionally or not, to me so that Your love can shine through me at all times to all people, regardless of my personal feelings in response to any given situation. Amen.

  2. Cory B says:

    I have the tendency to judge people at the gym or work. I’ve gotten better at recognizing it and stopping it, but I wish it wouldn’t happen in the first place.

  3. Dennis says:

    I attempt to keep my focus on decreasing so that HE may increase. Sometimes I fail in being humble but holding every thought captive helps me re-calibrate

  4. Jason Taylor says:

    It is a daily struggle to humbly give up my deserving rights and give them to God. When I do God then can give them back to me when & how He chooses. Some examples are my opinions I want to share with others, enjoying a mobile body to hike & run outside, enjoying my outdoor hobbies. As a leader of my family I realize I must put them first above my pleasures and God above my family.

  5. David J says:

    God help me to remember everything I have and ever will have is from you. I deserve nothing because I am a wretched sinner. Thank you God for saving me with your grace.

    • Matt says:

      Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are “in Christ”, which you are if you are a Christian, then you are a “son”, and God loves His children just as much as He loved Christ (John 17:23). The Bible calls unbelievers “sinners”; but calls believers, “saints.” The Bible even calls His children “holy” (1 Thess. 5:27; Heb. 3:1; 1 Cor. 3:17), and we are new creations and called the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). I know it’s hard to see ourselves as “good”. But the OT shows us that God only accepts holiness. And in the NT, we are holy not b/c we sin less (although there are definitely “righteous” and “unrighteous” actions); we will always sin in multitudes of ways on planet earth (Note: I’m not condoning sin). The indwelling Spirit makes us holy. And we as children are partakers of that holiness. We are not unholy and holy at the same time. Amazingly, God says if we are His, we are holy and righteous and good. Sorry to write a book.

  6. Sam says:

    I have a long standing habit of thinking I am right or justified, God please forgive and remove this form me.

  7. Chris says:

    I think it’s human nature for good people to ask “what did I do to deserve this!” Think about this the next time you find yourself in a bad situation especially after doing something kind or gentle to another!

  8. Tom says:

    I seldom add a comment, but I am so appreciative of the witness other guys are in my life as I read their posts. Reading these posts is encouraging for me. I need that male honesty and do look for that in a group of men I could meet with regularly.

  9. Bob Olsen says:

    My nephew Kyle has cut me off from any meaningful conversation over the phone or in person. What did I do to deserve this?

  10. Matt says:

    It can be so easy for me to slip into a self-righteous mode of thinking. This Devo really opened up my eyes to ways I was being self-righteous without even realizing it.

    • Michael Stinson says:

      There are many times, as a pastor, that I get caught up in the thinking of “I did this” or ” I did that? ” but in reality it was the power of the Spirit working in and through me.

  11. Ed says:

    My work ethic, integrity, and physical fitness level. Which is ironic, because in my own self brag, I reveal my hypocrisy in that for stretches of time I have been 50 pounds overweight, lazy and unfocused. I think those of us that are the most outspoken about comparing or belittling others are merely revealing our own weaknesses and hypocrisy. I think those people that bother me the most are the ones that I recognize failure in… that the reason I recognize that failure is because it’s familiar. Jesus called these people (Pharisees and saduccees) whitewashed tombs and hypocrites. First remove the beam from your own eye, then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brothers eye…. self righteousness is truly as a filthy rag in Gods eyes because it denies his glory and sacrifice in and through us. It’s hideous and has no place in the purposes of God in our lives and hinders knowing both God and ourselves in a way that would help us grow and draw others to Christ. It’s a form of pride that leads to lack of empathy for others and narcissistic tendencies.

    • Vince Miller says:

      Ed, spot-on today. Common irritations, or those that irritate us the most, are the ones we frequently struggle with. Thanks for being so specific here. It will be helpful for others!

      • Ed says:

        thanks Vince… it’s a way out of the bondage of self-righteousness to be honest and get the truth out for others to see. Transparency is always better than pride. It’s the harder way to go personally for the flesh, but it’s that old flesh and pride that needs to go to the cross anyway and be reckoned dead and buried so the new life and LIGHT we have in Christ Jesus can burst forth and not be covered under the bushel of self righteousness…

  12. SHELDON Bullard says:

    when i see those who do profess faith in Christ doing so well and we who are involved in service for God sometime struggling to get by, i sometimes question God. But today i asked Him to forgive me of my self righteousness .