The Dangerous Lure of Self-Righteousness
40 Days of Personal Change, Day 14
Elul 14, 5780 / September 3, 2020

Isaiah 1:11-15, 16-20; Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Peter 1:1-11

It seems that Abba is giving a warning concerning the lure of attempting to establish our own self-righteousness.  Although we are primarily focusing on Isaiah 1:16-20, I felt led to also check out what comes immediately before that passage.  Abba used some extremely strong language in these verses to express how weary He was with the sacrifices, offerings, Festival observances, and prayers that were being offered.  Apparently, it is possible to be “doing all the right things” but in the end find that our supposedly righteous behavior is disgusting to Him. 

Matthew 7:21-23 is a similar but even more alarming passage.  It is interesting to note here what the people are saying and perhaps more importantly what they are not saying.  They are describing the wonderful, righteous things they did in His name.  However, they make no mention of any trust they may have had in what He had accomplished for them. 

2 Peter 1:1-7 beautiful describes what Abba has provided for us.  What a powerful passage!  These are things that we are not able to accomplish for ourselves.  A friend once said that it is important to make a clear distinction between what Abba does for us and what He expects us to do for ourselves in response to His goodness to us.  It seems that the enemy loves to blur the lines and cause confusion in this area, which can lead us directly into seeking to establish our own self-righteous.  Verses 8-11 continue with an explanation of what we are to focus our efforts on.  The last phrase in verse 9 seems to be a key; it is crucial that we remember that our past sins have been washed away.  This is a precious thing Abba has done for us!

This leads us back to Isaiah 1:16-20.  In verse 18 Abba invites us to come and have a dialog with Him and explains that the scarlet and crimson stain of our sins will be washed white like snow or wool.  This sounds like the righteousness that He has provided for us and that we are unable to achieve for ourselves.  But there are also important instructions for us in the surrounding verses that we need to heed and that describe our response of repentance.  We need to stop doing evil and learn to do good, and He explains what that looks like.  “Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow.”

There is one last thought that a friend shared yesterday concerning repentance.  As vitally important as it is, we need to guard against focusing on it too much and becoming overly self-absorbed. It seems that even repentance can be used in an effort to establish self-righteousness. Our focus ultimately needs to be on the One whom we love with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength.

Barbara Foerster
BYNA Prayer Partner

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