Righteousness is a crucial ingredient of divine love. It is something that is too often missing from the testimony of the Church today. What do we do about it? The temptation is to point out unrighteousness wherever we find it. We want to preach against it. We want to punish it. We leave churches over it. We want to hold people accountable for it. All that is fine…in its place. What we don’t often do, is what we should be doing first: working on our own righteousness.
God wants us to be excellent in everything we do. We need to strive for excellence in all areas of life: physical, mental, business, home and social as well as spiritual. But when our striving for moral begins to impede the flow of grace towards others we have crossed the line.
As a matter of fact, the problem with over promoting moral “dos and don’ts” is that it does not accomplish what it is set out to do—move people to become morally excellent.
Why is this true? Because criticism does not work! Criticism puts people on the defense. “But I thought criticism motivates people.“ Oh, it motivates people all right. It motivates them right in the opposite direction! One of the reasons that pornography, sex, drugs, alcohol and the like are such problems among Christians (and they are) is that too many Christians are not being willing to listen to people’s problems in a gracious way. We should heed the wisdom of Oswald chambers who said, “God gives us discernment in the lives of others to call us to intercession for them, never so that we may find fault with them.”
We tend to minimize our own faults and magnify the faults of others. Jesus spoke to this issue saying we should be much more concerned with getting logs out of our own eyes before we go around picking the specks out of others’ eyes in Matthew 7:3-5.
And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
Several things are of interest in that piece of advice. First, Jesus says each of us has logs in our own eyes, but everyone else has specks in their own—not logs. Second, while each of us needs to be concerned about the speck in our neighbor’s eye, priority needs to be given to the log in our own.
We should not get so involved with seeing problems in others that we end up seeing a speck and calling it a plank. Don’t spend your time worrying about other people’s faults. If God wanted you to worry about them he would have given them to you! You take care of your own.
“I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices” (Matthew 9:13). This saying of Jesus’ should shock us today. Some people think their spiritual gift is “polishing people.” Polishing is not listed as a spiritual gift. Fixing other people, buffing them up and getting rid of their rough edges, is a poor use of your time. Why? Because that is God’s job, not ours. If that is you, you probably find people you are trying to “help” don’t even want to listen to you. People probably are constantly falling short of your vision of them. People are not supposed to be becoming more like you, they are supposed to be becoming more like Jesus! Let Jesus worry about fixing everyone else. It is amazing how fast their problems get fixed when you start focusing on your own shortcomings and failings.
The way to restore righteousness in the Church begins with the personal commitment to live a righteous life. So what I want to challenge you to do this week is to take some time to meditate on Psalm 15 (NIV). Ask yourself, “Does this Psalm describe me?”
LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.
- Do I speak the truth from my heart?
- Am I careful not to slander the people in my life?
- Can I honestly say I do no wrong to my neighbor?
- Do I despise evil behavior?
- Do I honor people who fear the Lord?
- Do I keep my promises?
- Do I accept bribes?
I know I have work to do. Do you? Let us commit then to being righteous so that we can love one another with the same love that Jesus has shown to us.