I have spent most of this last week frustrated that people don’t do what I say. I mean they tell me their problems, I tell them the perfect solution and then they go and do something completely different and so not right. How is one with all the answers, like me, to interact with people who don’t do what I tell them to do? Why do people not take advantage of the fact that I have all the answers?
Here is the funny thing about me and being frustrated. Frustration in me turns into, anxiety. Anxiety turns into yelling. And yelling is my cue that I have lost my way. In my frustration I have to sit and ask myself, “Self, why are you so frustrated?” To which self said, “I don’t like it when people don’t do what I say because I want everyone to be ok, and everyone will be ok if they follow my advice because I have all the right answers.” To which the Lord then chimes in, “Hey there kiddo, I am pretty sure that I have all the answers because I am omnipotent and omniscient, and you might feel like you have all the answers and give the best advice but you are operating on human 2.0 software, and it is fallible and best, super prideful at worst. Can we dish about how you think you have all the answers real quick?” To which self says, “Don’t listen to Him, He doesn’t know your truth!” To which the Lord says, “I am the truth, the way and the life.” Mic drop, and self shuts up, confesses that self has been super prideful, and tries to learn about a little thing I am calling Self-Righteousness. Here is what I learned.
First, I am a know it all. I am one of those people who naturally wants to tell you about everything I know. I want to tell you the best face cream. I want to tell you the what works best for parenting. I want to tell you what works best for studying your bible. My “know it all—ness” is the exact thing that causes me to write this blog from the “you need to do this, this and this,” point of view. I then proof read what I wrote and get disgusted with how much of know it all I am and then go back and change all the “you’s” to “I’s.” (I know there is some english term for this like “first person voice” or something but I was agricultural economics major so leave me alone.) Left to my own devices I am at that person that you stop telling your problems to because you get that feeling like I am not really listening to you ever, but actually solving your problem while you are still talking to me. This does not line up with the whole, be slow to speak quick to listen passage in James 1:19. To follow the Lord means you are going to be leaning how to be a good listener. You have to train yourself to listen to the Lord and you have to train yourself to listen to His people. If you are ever talking to me and you see me contort my face or put my hand over my mouth, don’t worry, I am just learning to be a good listener. It’s a work in progress.
Second, I am righteous but I am also self-righteous. I am righteous because I believe in Jesus. He gives me His righteousness so I can be right with God. Righteous=right with God. Check this out in Romans 3:21-22
21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
I have righteousness because of Jesus. I am made right with God, or justified before God, by putting my faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only reason that I am ok with God. He had to take on my sin debt, the tally of all the ways I have fallen short of God’s Glory, and be the perfect sacrifice for that debt I could never pay. My Jesus given righteousness is not something I could earn on my own merit but something freely given to me by God. It is also something I desperately needed because there is no life with God unless you are right with God. Holy Moly! Is that a T-shirt or what???
And now enters my self-righteousness. This is the part of me that thinks there is some part of me good enough to make myself right with God. That there is some act, or benevolence, or tally of good things I have done that will allow me to stand before the creator of heaven and earth and go, “You are great, I love all the things you have done here. I see all these holy beings worshipping you, I feel the urge to fall flat on my face and worship you for the rest of eternity, but first let me present these things I have done as a way of making me right with your glorious, holy beautiful being.” I just don’t see that going over well. Self-righteousness says, “Yeah, God told us that no one comes to the father except through Jesus, but I am sure when he sees the good things you have done He will totally forget that He sent HIS ONE AND ONLY SON TO DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH to pay for sin, and applaud your denial of His perfect and holy plan.” Call me a genius, but I am thinking that will not work for us. Self-righteousness says, “You got this! You can do this without having to humble yourself before the Lord.” Self-righteousness says, “You are so right you should tell everyone how to solve their problems and expect them to do what you say because you are so awesome!” The problem is my self-righteousness has never once led me to a place of rest and peace, and my Jesus-righteousness has led me to rest and peace EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Self-righteousness displayed in my life is me getting frustrated when people don’t do what I say. My belief in my goodness, and wisdom, and perfect ability to solve problems leaves me dumbfounded when people don’t do what I say or (clutch your pearls) REJECT what I tell them to do all together. It’s not a conscience declaration of my ability to make myself right with God, but it is an admission of me thinking I am doing pretty dang well for myself. So much so that I have the right to look down on other people and offer my help to solve their problems. You will find this self-righteousness described in the bible in the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee in Luke 18, check it out:
9And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
10“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11“The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
13“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’
14“I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The pharisee stands as an example of self-righteousness. See how he say’s “I fast and I tithe?” This is his admission that he is trusting in his self-righteousness to make him right with God. He also stood aloof and looked down on the tax collector. Self-righteousness will always put others down because you have to be more right than they are in order for you self-righteousness to work.
And now the third thing I learned. Guess who never ever gets frustrated with me for not doing what he says? That’s right, Jesus. He tells me in His word the right way to do things. He has every right to be self-righteous because remember He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the reason for righteousness. He invented right-ness. He is perfect, never wrong. He has never told me to do something that did not end up being good for me. He has never led me astray. One morning when I was confessing during my quiet time with the Lord how frustrated I was, I looked down at the page of all the confessions and realized something. Each one of those confessions was an area where I was not doing what God was asking me to do. Each one was a result of me exercising my self-righteousness before the One who is truly Righteous. And I realized that He did not get frustrated with me in return. I got forgiveness. I got restored peace. I got empowerment to go to the people I was frustrated with and make it right. I got to know God in that sweet way that happens when you are humbled by the perfectness of Jesus.
So my prayer for myself is that my self-righteousness will turn into Jesus-righteousness. I want to be the person that believes the best thing I have to offer you is Jesus, not how to fix things. I want to be the person that listens. I want to be the person that considers what you are sharing and then points you to the Lord. I want to be the mom that hears what you are saying and points you toward the Lord. I also want to be the mom that is not frustrated and making it all about “you didn’t do what I said” when my child does not do what I told them to do. (except with toddlers, I am sorry but first time obedience is a pre-req for the teenage years. We don’t negotiate with terrorist around here.) I am for sure operating on human 2.0 software. And with that I want to remember that I don’t have all the answers but God does. He is the one who knows everything, not me. I want to always remember that being right with God does not give me the right to be self-righteous.