A Surefire Test for Self-Righteousness: Try it today! :)

Self-righteousness is notoriously difficult to self-assess.

Pic: Pixabay Public Domain

Those of us who struggle with it the most are the least likely to recognize it within ourselves. When the infamous Pharisee pompously prayed of all the ways he outshone his fellow worshiper, I just don’t think he was quite aware of how self-righteous he had become. We rarely are.

But I think I may have figured out a way of doing just that. Go with me for a moment, and then I’ll try to explain what I’m thinking.

Here’s the self-assessment question that might–just might–help reveal if we are struggling with self-righteousness:

Am I more offended by the sin of those around me, or am I more offended by the sin that is within me? 

What gets you riled up? What makes you ache inside? Is it the sin within your own heart, or the sin you see in others?

That, my friends, is a surefire test for self-righteousness.

The Pharisee and the Publican, baroque fresco in Ottobeuren Basilica. By Johannes Böckh & Thomas Mirtsch via Wikimedia Commons.

Because I, for one, am far more willing to denounce others than expose myself. I can feel very good about my reaction to the pride and superiority in others–in fact, I can feel pretty . . . er . . . great about it. You can see where this is going.

And lest you think this is a soft-sell, I’ll be clear: getting over self-righteousness is not about becoming dull to sin. Sin is destructive. And we can hurt for the damage sin wreaks in someone’s life; we can mourn over the losses, the hurt and the pain, even when the person doesn’t realize the effects of what they are doing. When we witness tragedy, when we are present in the midst of aching chaos, when we see firsthand the devastation of betrayal and selfishness, we respond with broken hearts.

We can even be offended by sin.  I mean, aren’t you rightly offended when you hear of abuse in the home or an injustice in the workplace? Aren’t you enraged by bombs dropped on kids or the tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women? Yes. We are and we should be. Sin is offensive. Sin is nasty. Sin hurts and destroys.

But, at the end of the day, as a general posture, who’s sin am I more offended by? Which sin makes me the most sick inside?

Is it “their” sin?

Or mine?

Because our answer to that gives us the greatest clue to the state of our own hearts, if we are willing to listen.

Following his classic aphorism to “judge not, lest you be judged,” Jesus said to first take the log out of own eyes, so we can then see clearly to help others with the twigs in theirs. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus’ teaching doesn’t imply “no judgment at all” but rather that we make ourselves the primary focus of judgment first before we then help others. Jesus wants us to be far more concerned with our own junk than the mess in other’s lives, remembering how easy it is to overlook our own sin. Unless we are willing to let Jesus extract the massive ugliness within ourselves, we won’t be very helpful conduits of grace and love for others. In fact, we’ll be dangerously unhelpful. Perhaps that is why the Apostle Paul warned us against harsh judgment of others?  Paul knew from experience how easy it is to forget our own sin in our fervour to “correct” someone else’s error. Prideful self-deception is most powerful when we are focused on someone else, forgetting our own susceptibility, our own ugliness, our own need for Jesus, our own log-jammed eyes.

So, I offer this question to you for thought, for consideration, one more time:

Am I more offended by the sin of those around me, or am I more offended by the sin that is within me? 

What do you think?

Would this question help you discern your own self-righteousness? Would this move you toward a greater awareness of your own need for the Father’s grace, and therefore a greater desire to show the Father’s grace to others?

I’m hoping so. At least for me.