Pride and Self-Righteousness
By Gary Amirault
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
It gives me great joy to be able to declare the above scripture to be true in my life. I am sure that scripture will probably become even more real as I continue my walk with our Father.
There was a time when I would have thought the above scripture was pure religious foolishness. I was an atheist. It was foolish to love someone who didn't exist. As for things working together for me, things only worked for me if I made them work for me. No, God, no luck. If things were going to go my way, I was going to have to make it happen. If I succeeded in making things go my way (whatever way that may be), then I was successful. I could be "proud of myself." Boy, was I proud of myself! Ask my mother she will tell you.
Now pride is an honorable trait in America. We are really encouraged to be proud. There is a place where one can overdue it, but in general one can be proud of their pride in America. Be proud of your country, your state, your school, your "good" grades, your achievements, your church, your organization or association, your profession, etc. There really is no end to the things we in America are proud of. Generally, because we are encouraged to be proud, we, Americans, are very tolerant about pride. It would appear this shouldn't be the case, considering America is traditionally known to be a Christian country. The Bible has nothing good to say about pride at all. As a matter of fact, a favorite American expression is "pride goeth before the fall," a paraphrase of Proverbs 16:18. In spite of this known Biblical expression, Americans are among the proudest people in the world. I am a native born German living in America so I was in double trouble. German pride runs as deep as it can get. My wife was raised Jewish so then I became triple proud.
Now I know a lot about "pride" and its religious counterpart "self-righteousness." I would classify myself as an expert in both arenas, not from studying the subjects, but from actually wearing those fashionable garments for a very long time. (And probably still putting them on from time to time.) Pride and self-righteousness runs deep.)
To me "pride" is different from "self-righteous." I see pride as something secular, whereas self-righteousness tends to focus on one's position between God and man. A religious person can wear both garments, pride and self-righteousness. If I had to describe what these garments looked like, I would probably describe them as robes or frocks to be worn backwards where the back of the hood actually covered one's face. I say this because both pride and self-righteousness blind our ability to see things as they really are. The worst part of this blindness is that the blind person does not believe they are blind. To others it is obvious, but to the poor souls wearing the garments of pride and self-righteousness, they actually believe they see. And they always see themselves in a different light than others see them.
My wife and I were told by someone that God would send us "hard" cases. I remember listening to a young man explain to me why he felt his girlfriend should get an abortion. This young man was dressed to "get attention." He stood out as a walking "freak show," but to the little circle that gathered around him who were also dressed to let people know they were around, I suppose he was "cool." He explained to me that he had nothing to offer a baby. It was best the baby never be born. I told him there are people who would gladly adopt the child. He said his parents offered to raise the child, but he hated them. He would rather have the baby aborted. As he was talking about himself and his dilemma, he was actually making himself look like a martyr by killing his own baby. I cannot find the right words to express this, but he felt extremely righteous and holy in actually having the baby aborted. I tried to bring to his attention to the fact that the end of his "denying himself the right" to raise the child was the death of an innocent child! True sacrifice would be to deny oneself and spend the rest of one's life raising the child. This would require getting a job and settling down which, of course, was out of the question. He actually despised his parents for even offering to raise the child until he, perhaps, had a change of mind. I remember very well this martyr face he wore. He was actually proud of his decision to abort the baby. In some bazaar way, he thought he was doing the baby a favor by killing it. His whole attitude turned my stomach, but I knew he was blind. He really couldn't see his pathetic condition. He needed a miracle. Pride can make a murderer actually feel good about their wickedness.
Self-righteousness is pride's bedfellow
Self-righteousness is pride's bedfellow. To me, self-righteousness is a righteousness a religious person feels based on their own works and their own standards (or church's standard) as opposed to the grace of our Father and His standards. I say the two are bedfellows. Let me give an example. I have noticed that military leaders always use pride to pump up the soldiers. "The few, the PROUD, the Marines." The self-righteous religious leaders of the past often used the "proud" military to do its dirty work. One party, the religious, would make the moral decree that a particular war is a just cause based upon their own view of "righteousness." This war is just. Those who engage in this war are righteous according to the religious. And this decree of declaring the war righteous, gives the military the moral high ground to kill in the name of God. If we look at American military cemetaries, one will find hundreds of thousands of white crosses -- dead men who went to other lands to kill total strangers in the name of God and country.
A self-righteous religious person is self-justified. Their salvation is really dependent upon "their" works. They may mouth "saved by grace through faith," but they are really empty words. A self-righteous person will always have people they can look down upon. The more people they have beneath their feet, the more self-righteous they are. While they may not voice it openly, those deemed to be outside the "saved" camp, "righteous" camp, become secretly despised. Sometimes it is not so secret, sometimes it is blatant hatred expressed quite openly. Because of what I teach, publically and quite openly, I am often the target of very hateful words. Religiously inspired hate-filled words can be quite devastating. I have met innocent people who felt a death wish was cast upon them by self-righteous religious people.
In the eyes of the religiously self-righteous, since God is going to deal those they despise in very cruel ways for all eternity, they feel quite justified in copying their God of wrath. They may not address those they've come to despise face-to-face -- it is usually through gossip, slander, cold shoulders, pretending those they despice don't exist. This self-righteousness then becomes a mountain of people under their feet, so to speak, a mass of people to look down upon as despised, forsaken, despicable. This mass of people can be compose of other denominations, people with other doctrines and creeds, entire nations, various personal preferences, or a host of other reasons to place these people in the "not saved" or "unjustified" camp.
To me, self-righteousness, is the number one cause of failure in a Christian's life. This sin causes one to be cut off from grace, not because God takes it away from them, but because they substitute their own works in the place of grace. They cut themselves off the vine which has the very life blood we need to manifest the life of Christ. Most Christians have heard the words "saved by grace through faith, it is a gift, not of works lest anyone should boast." But very few embrace these words with all their hearts. A person who has placed these words deep in their hearts will never sing, "I have decided to follow Jesus," yet this song is almost the battle cry of Christendom. It may seem like we decided, but as we grow spiritually, we learn "no man comes to the Father unless the Father draws him." (John 6:44) This word "draws" is the same word used to describe the fish Peter caught with his net. When we truly discover "grace through faith, a gift" then we realize we never "decided" to follow anyone. Our Father even provided the "so-called" decision for us. He decided for us. If you are on the road which started with "your" decision to follow Jesus, you are on a road which will surely lead to SELF-righteousness.
I remember, not too long ago, driving by a Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri. It was a very large church. On the front lawn of this church was erected a giant billboard of an Abrams tank. The artwork was professionally done. Under the picture of this giant tank moving at top speed was the caption, "We support our troops." I am certain I would have totally failed at trying to convince the pastor of this church and this Baptist congregation of the inappropriateness of this billboard. Pride and self-righteousness are blind bedfellows who say they are not blind.
I believe two giant pillars of the gates of hell are pride and self-righteousness. No one can escape the spiritual poverty of the kingdoms of this world without destroying these giants in their lives. The power to overcome these two giants are the true understanding in the heart that salvation is a gift, a gift of life that cannot be taken away by not following laws, rules, regulations, creeds, dress codes etc. I hear many preachers, especially evangelists, mouth these words but they are not planted in their hearts. They are just quoting scriptures. We have to be able to stand on this revelation. It must become our walk. Salvation is "All from our Father," not of ourselves, lest we become self-righteous in our own eyes.
The other antidote for pride and self-righteousness is the understanding that God truly loves all mankind and has accepted them through the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ said He will draw all mankind unto Himself. (John 12:32) The same "all" that died in Adam, will be made alive in Christ. All died, all will be made alive "in" Christ. (1 Cor. 15:22-28)
These two weapons, our salvation being 100% from our Father and the understanding that He will ultimately draw all mankind unto Himself to love them, not to torture them, will disarm pride and self-righteousness. They will no longer have any power over us and we will be free to enter the kingdom of heaven on earth. True Righteousness, Peace, and Joy will be ours freely.
The mountains of people below our feet will disappear. Our heart's desire will be to give thanks to our Father for the deliverance He has given us. He then will allow us the honor of being used as an instrument to set others free also. But it will be His works through us, not of ourselves lest we become self-righteous. Everything becomes a gift from above, nothing to boast about but everything to be thankful for.
The danger of having the problem of self-righteousness is that it is a blinding agent. Once the poison sets in, the person becomes blind to the fact they are self-righteous. In addition, it is almost impossible for other human beings to tell that person they are self-righteous. They truly cannot see it. The Pharisees who say, "We thank God we am not like them" really do not thank God, they are praising themselves and their own works. They see everything through their own works, which to them are good. They say they "see," but Jesus said that because they say they "see," their sin remains. Self-righteousness causes us to say we see, when we are truly spiritually blind.
We must throw ourselves at the feet of Christ to have self-righteousness washed away. It is a disease that really only He can cure. A sign that we are beginning to see correctly is that we will experience a great sense of gratitude. Not a "I thank God I am not like them" phony thankfulness, but a true gratitude realizing that everything comes from above, it all belongs to Him. We begin to see that salvation, "deliverance" is all of Him, for us, and for all mankind. At this point, He allows us to participate in becoming conformed to Him, by releasing a desire in us to free our brothers and sisters from the same bonds with which we were chained. We begin to intercede for our brothers and sisters. The desire to "put them under our feet" that we might climb closer to God is destroyed in us. We begin to be conformed to image of Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and mankind.
The diet of a Christian must be pure grace, it cannot be mixed with works of the flesh, whether those works are supposedly for God or not. When our Father becomes absolutely supreme, when all things are under His feet in our lives, then He can truly turn all things to our good. The good, the bad, and the ugly all work to our good. Recognizing we stand by grace alone allows us to love our brothers and sisters, knowing they are also His and He is able to cause them to stand as well. And stand they will, because that is His desire, His will, and His purpose.
In order for us to walk in grace, we must see our works for what they are, death! In order to be raised from the dead, we must receive His Life which is a gift of His righteousness apart from our works. We are saved by grace, walk by grace, and end up in grace. There is absolutely no room for our works. The works we engage in are those given to us that we should walk in them. They were prepared from the foundation of the world. They are gifts to be enjoyed, not to boast in.
If we are self-righteous, chances are we don't know it. We must pray that He opens our eyes in this area. The Holy Spirit can bring healing in this area where man can only bring condemnation. We must be lowly of heart. We must understand Self-righteousness is a disease all Christians may contract any day. We must let Jesus wash our feet. This dirt is difficult to spot. He knows how to cleanse us from this dirt. Let us give Him room to reveal this to us Himself by not judging ourselves, but allowing Him to judge us daily. When we use the Bible to judge ourselves, we pick and choose those scriptures which put us in favorable light. We will always tip the scales of justice in our favor, while generally tipping them the other way for our enemies.
In summary then, pride and self-righteousness are two giant pillars of hell on earth. They are the secular and religious bedfellows which prevent peace from being established on the earth. Thankfulness and gratefulness are the antidote for this poison. These two attributes are released when we come to Him with a broken and contrite heart, empty of ourselves, our righteousness, our good deeds. When we become empty, then He can fill us with Himself. When He comes, He brings everything we need, He becomes our sufficiency, our Life, our Righteousness, and our Love.
While I do not say I have been completely set free in this area myself, I can tell that there have been mighty changes. I used to be an extremely ungrateful person (ask my mother and father). But today, I find myself truly grateful for even the smallest of things like toilet paper, matches, and razor blades. This is a sign to me that I am entering into His labor, His Day, His Life and putting off my own. Thank you, Father, I see you have begun a mighty job in me. Work on then Lord, til on my soul Eternal Light shall break, and in Thy likeness, I satisfied shall wake!