Summary: Discover solutions to overcoming self-righteousness
We return to our study in Job this morning. If for no other reason, one Sunday each month, we need to be reminded that God’s people are not immune to suffering and confusion in life. Furthermore, the book of Job gives Christians permission to vent, to cry, to grieve, to be angry, and to be depressed. Job reminds us that we are spiritual, physical and emotional beings.
Job was a man of integrity, who feared God and shunned evil. God blessed Job with wisdom and prosperity. But some of that changed when Satan, the Accuser, accused Job of worshipping God in order to secure God’s blessings.
In some sense, God complimented Job when He chose Job to prove Satan wrong. God permitted Satan to strip away the blessings from Job’s life. Livestock, properties, servants, children, and his own health, all ripped out of Job’s life in a short time.
The grief of losing wealth was nothing compared with the agony of losing his children. And the loss of his health further paralyzed him with a sense of helplessness. But Job hung onto his integrity and his faith in God.
Job was not a silent sufferer, though. He vented self-pity and anger. He was depressed and wished death would end his pain. He asked questions only God could answer, but God did not answer. So Job’s friends, who came with the intention to comfort him, turned against him.
This morning, we come to the third friend, Zophar, the Self-righteous. His words are recorded in Job 11.
I’ve had four mentors in my life, all pastors, who have shaped my ministry significantly. My first mentor encouraged me to learn from his success and failures. My current mentor regularly reminds me to learn from the mistakes of others.
This morning, we will learn from the mistakes of Zophar, the Self-righteous. What Zophar said were actually true, but his truths were irrelevant to Job. Zophar says that if people received punishment equal to their sins, they would be dead. He then says that people cannot understand how God works. And finally, Zophar says those who are hurting should seek God, because God is the only One who can restore the blessings.
All of what Zophar said is true, but they didn’t need to be said. Job’s suffering was not due to his sin. Rather, Job’s suffering was due to his faithfulness, which was being tested by Satan. Job already knew that God’s ways are a mystery. And Job had been seeking God, but God remained silent.
Not only were Zophar’s counsels irrelevant to Job, but Zophar’s attitude was also one of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is declaring oneself to be right. Self-righteousness enjoys telling other where they are wrong. He was a Mr. Know-it-all.
A lady sarcastically remarked to her friend, “I knew I was marrying Mr. Right. I just didn’t know his first name is ‘Always’.” He has all the right answers, and he believes he is doing everything right, all the time. Even when he is wrong, he at least has right reasons for being wrong.
Self-righteousness is found in all of us to some degree. And to the degree we are self-righteous, we create problems for ourselves and for others. Self-righteousness leads to a judgmental and critical spirit. Get around a self-righteous boss, co-worker, wife or father, and all you hear are your mistakes.
The self-righteous is critical of others and tries to control and change others. The Self-righteous has a hard time forgiving others and asking for forgiveness from others. The self-righteous person may act humble, but he or she feels superior to others and sees no need for God.
If you recognize a touch of self-righteousness in you, you are in good company. God recorded the example of Zophar for us who are honest enough to face our problem of self-righteousness. Zophar’s counsel to Job gives us hints to what produces self-righteousness in us, and what we need to do to let go of self-righteousness. Here are three causes for self-righteousness. This is not an exhaustive list.
First, we become self-righteousness when we defend ourselves. We see this in verses 1-6.
In these verses, Zophar tells Job that his suffering is due to his sin, but Zophar does not point to specific sins in Job’s life. So why does Zophar make such a claim? Because Zophar was trying to defend himself.
Have you ever come across a homeless person, and reason that she wouldn’t be that way if she were responsible, diligent and good, like yourself? In effect, we are protecting ourselves by affirming that our accepting personal responsibility, our diligence and our goodness will keep us from becoming a homeless person.
In our minds, we are thinking, “The homeless person, the obese person, the divorced person are getting what he or she deserves, and I’m getting what I deserve.” The self-righteous person separates the world into two kinds of people, the good and the bad. And the more we defend how good we are, the more self-righteous we become.