The Futility Of Self-Righteousness

The Futility Of Self-Righteousness

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
–Isaiah 64:6

What did Paul mean when he mentioned the breastplate of righteousness in Ephesians 6:14? What kind of righteousness was he talking about? There is so much confusion, even among Christians, about the term “righteousness” because it is used in three different ways in the Bible.

The first way that the Bible uses “righteousness” is to describe self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is what a non-Christian engages in to try to earn God’s approval; in other words, it is man’s attempt to earn God’s favor through good works. There are thousands of religions other than Christianity in the world today, but they all basically boil down to the same thought: we earn God’s favor through good works. Those other religions are spelled D-O. Do this and do that, and maybe God will let you into heaven. But Christianity is the only religion in the world that is spelled D-O-N-E. Christianity is based not on what we do for God, but what God through Jesus Christ has already done for us. On the other hand, self-righteousness is man’s attempt to earn God’s favor through good works.

What does God think of the good works of a non-Christian? How does He view the non-Christian’s efforts to feed the poor and to clothe the naked and to be kind and loving to other people? Look at Isaiah 64:6: “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” The term “filthy garment” here refers to the rags associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle. Get the picture? God says the best you can do as a non-Christian is like a filthy rag in God’s sight.

You might be thinking, “Pastor, what about so-and-so? He may be a non-Christian, but he gave a billion dollars to build a new hospital.” God says it is a filthy rag in His sight. “What about the person who gives of his time and his wealth to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked and to house the homeless?” God says it is a filthy rag in His sight. “But Pastor, what about this man who is not a Christian but loves his wife and is rearing wonderful children?” God says it is a filthy rag in His sight. That is how God views self-righteousness. It is obvious that when Paul talked about putting on the breastplate of righteousness, he was not talking about self-righteousness. Self-righteousness cannot protect us from Satan’s attacks.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Putting Out The “Not Welcome” Mat” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org;