What is the TRUE, BIBLICAL, definition of Self-Righteousness? Was Job self-righteous? Were the Pharisees? Is the concept even found in scripture?
To begin with, the term “Self-Righteous” is not to be found in the Bible – it simply isn’t there. You should be very careful using terms that were made up by the world’s churches!
What do people mean when they call you self-righteous?
They are trying to say “Well, if you think you’re righteous, you don’t need Christ anymore!”. They will tell you that to try to be righteous, will actually offend God – it will do despite to the spirit of Grace! People seem to FEAR righteousness – of all the silly ideas!
Let’s examine the scriptures from which they have drawn the ideas about self-righteousness, and see what they REALLY say.
Romans 10:3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
On the surface, this could say more or less what they said – but look at the verses preceding:
Romans 10:1-2 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
This is not talking about someone who is RIGHTEOUS, but someone who DOESN’T really understand righteousness, and MAKES UP A RIGHTEOUSNESS of their OWN…
The PHARISEES, who were cheif among those Paul was talking about here, MADE UP their righteousness.
Mark 7:7-9 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. [Not submitting themselves to GOD’s Righteousness!] For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well YE REJECT the commandment of God, that ye may keep YOUR OWN tradition.
These men – this entire nation – was NOT submitting themselves to the righteousness of Christ, or the LAW of Moses, but they were MAKING their OWN laws… and establishing their OWN righteousness – THESE men were SELF-RIGHTEOUS!
Another scripture often used to condemn people who strive to be righteous, is
Job 32:1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.
Now… was Job’s “righteousness in his own eyes” a bad thing? It might look like that on the surface, but what does scripture say about that? And should you value the opinions of Job’s three friends?
Remember that Job had examined himself – THOROUGHLY – and could find no place where he had offended God. Neither could his friends. Neither could God – and NEITHER COULD SATAN!
Job 1:8-9 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?…
God said Job was a perfect and upright man. If Job had been sinning, Satan would have said so – and called God a liar, which He would have been if Job was not righteous. Instead, Satan in effect said “Oh yeah??”.
So bear in mind, when people condemn Job for being “Self-righteous”, that God said he was RIGHTEOUS. Job’s three friends, on the other hand, said that Job was “righteous in his own eyes”… or “SELF-RIGHTEOUS”. What did God think of their opinions?
Job 42:7 And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.
Remember, God was HAPPY with Job. He wasn’t self-righteous – he WAS truly righteous. Now, back to the original scripture, quoted this time in context:
Job 32:1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.
And here, Elihu also condemns the opinions of Job’s three friends. At first glance, it looks like he said the same thing about Job that Job’s friend’s had, but there is a distinct difference! Notice:
3 Friends: Righteous in his own eyes
Elihu: Justified himself rather than God.
Job was RIGHTEOUS. God did not contest that. Elihu was mad at Job because Job felt God had no right to do this. He justified HIMSELF, (God has no right to do this) Rather than God (God has a right to do this)
Elihu had no problem with Job being righteous in his own eyes. Why should he? He was righteous in God’s eyes. And it is not wrong to say “I am righteous”, when you ARE righteous.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
You should not need to be ashamed of your righteousness. You should be able to say “Where is my sin? I can’t find any – can you?” Is that self-righteous? If anyone says that that is wrong, then consider the fact that your Creator said it Himself. Was He “Self-righteous”?
John 8:45-46 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?
If you were to say this to anyone today, you’d be branded as self-righteous. But if you ARE right… If you HAVE judged yourself, and if you truly can’t find any more sin – then you can freely say, as Job, and Christ, could, “Where is my sin?”… without any fear, because it is simply the truth.
So what is self-righteousness? Making up YOUR OWN LAWS, and ignoring the laws of God.
Was Job self-righteous? Certainly not. He submitted himself to the laws of God – God and Satan both agreed on that. Were the Pharisees self-righteous? Absolutely.
Are the churches today self-righteous? Beyond any doubt.