Why Self-Righteousness Is a Big Spiritual Problem

Bitterness and self-righteousness, like a virus, invade and occupy the heart of the religious and moralist.

So why did Moses strike the rock twice rather than just speak to it as the Lord had instructed? This question probably reminds us of the many times we had determined to do the one right thing but ended up doing something else. In this case, we see Moses, who had set his heart on obeying God, disobeying Him, and justifying his wrong action. I suggest that Moses even believed his way supported God’s purposes. This incident helps us examine the nature and deceptiveness of self-righteousness and how it brandishes itself.

Self-righteousness is not easily detected, for one has already taken steps to avoid detection.

The religious, moralistic, and powerful individuals who fall to self-righteousness commonly install a defense that isolates themselves from guilt by justifying to themselves that they are beyond the scrutiny of others and any wrong.

Why did God judge Moses so strongly? Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses struck the rock twice. Because of that, God was angry with Moses and did not allow him to enter the Promised Land. So why was God so severe?

The Lord gives the reason in verse 12, indicting Moses for not treating God holy in the sight of the people. The self-righteous begin to lose an accurate perspective of themselves and others when their anger begins to flare up. It’s just at this time they tend to excuse themselves from doing things God’s ways and applaud their actions. Anyone, even those possessing Moses’ intimacy with God, can disguise their waywardness with a self-righteous attitude.

So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; 10 and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (Num 20:9-12)

Once Moses went beyond the command of God’s Word, he trod on unholy ground. Despite his apparent faith and familiarity with God, he did something that displeased the Lord. Moses, in his mind, saw himself cooperating and working for the Lord. But in this one instance, this special position of knowing God and His Word, worked against him as he presumed he could make a separate, acceptable judgment differing from God. Moses went from servant to master; he stepped from man to God. One can observe his siding with God, as seen in his statement, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” (10) Moses’ self-confidence (no doubt incited by the evil one) misled him. He trusted his judgment of his procedure rather than fixing his heart on the Lord’s instruction. Moses’ sin probably came about by a brief burst of self-confidence that led to him striking the rock, thinking it would carry more authority than merely speaking to it.

I am not asserting that Moses regularly carried a self-righteous attitude, but here, it appears, he justified his disobedience as if he was right in his action. He considered himself, whether by his proximity with God or by siding with the Lord’s purposes, to be able to judge the situation right as God.

Religious and spiritual disciplines are great practices that can draw us closer to God, but when they distance us from others and lead us to believe in our self-righteousness, we have gotten it wrong. It is by grace alone that we are made righteous; a gift granted to each and every one of us.

The Pharisees were devoted to following the law and traditions. The tax collectors were viewed as unclean traitors who worked for the oppressive Roman Empire. In the parable, two men went to the temple to pray. “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

Let’s return to Moses’ incident of not treating God holy. The Lord stated, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel” (12). What intrigues me is the way Moses, the Israelite’s judge, sins but doesn’t discover it. Moses struck the rock twice with a rod. Isn’t it true that those who critically judge others can easily fall into glossing over their sins? Because the Apostle Paul found this danger in the church, and maybe even in his own heart, he cautioned, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1)

Published by johnranjit

Lifestyle Blogger

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