Skip to main content

The pride of moral superiority

"There is none righteous, not even one." (Rom. 3:10)

Last Saturday at Men's Bible Study, we were made aware of our own pride and selfishness through Jerry Bridge's book, Respectable Sins.

Bridges has spent thousands of hours studying
and writing and preaching and counseling on the matter of personal holiness. So when he speaks about the human heart, I know I need to listen. And what he said about self-righteous pride really grabbed my attention:
I venture that of all the subtle sins we will address in this book, the pride of moral superiority may be the most common, second only to the sin of ungodliness. But though it is so prevalent among us, it is difficult to recognize because we all practice it to some degree. In fact, we seem to get a perverse enjoyment out of discussing how awful society around us is becoming. When we engage in this kind of thinking and conversation, we are guilty of the pride of moral superiority. (p. 90)
I feel way too good about myself. If my thoughts and impulses were carried out and translated into words, I would probably be caught saying things like,

"Thank God I'm not like that murderer, or drug addict, or homosexual. I sure am glad I'm not one of those open theists, or emergents, or charismatics, or Arminians! Come to think of it, I really am a pretty good Christian. I read my Bible more than he does; I arrive to church
earlier than she does; I know my theology better than he does; I never struggle with the sin he does; I'm a lot nicer to be around than she is; my prayers are much more fluent than his; my comments are always more profound than hers; I'm a better writer than she is; I'm a better preacher than he is; and I bet I even tithe more than he does. God sure must be happy with me. Isn't He lucky to have me on His side?"

I'm being only slightly facetious here. In these moments of moral comparison, which are far too frequent, I'm really no better than the Pharisee of Luke 18:11-12. Exalting himself, he was humbled by God, and found no mercy (v. 14).

The remedy to all of this is to fix my eyes completely on Christ. His glory and perfection smash my self-righteousness like a sledgehammer. And when I hear His words, "You shall be holy, for I am holy," (1 Pet. 1:16), I suddenly realize just how sinful I am, and how much I need the cross of Jesus every day.


  1. Stephen,

    Excellent thoughts! I have come to recognize my need of meditating on who God is as our Lord, our Judge, our Redeemer, and the One who cares for me, more and more!

    After thinking through what you communicated about making moral comparisons, I see that such thinking is legalism and in a sense a works-righteousness. In others words, I have come to trust more in who I am, what I do, and what I do not do! Often such thinking and comments "fly under the radar" because we dress it up with a pious phrase of by the grace of God I am better then the next man.

    This is performance oriented or what Doriani calls Nike Christianity. Far to often I have found myself thinking that God is pleased with me, not because of what Christ has done (which destroys my pride), but of how much improvement I have made in being "sanctified".

    I am not saying that we should not pursue God so that He can cleanse us (i.e. sanctify us). I am saying that although I may be spiritually mature, my maturity is for the benefit others so that God can graciously use me to help others mature.

    All in all obedience is not the essence of Christianity, it is only one aspect. Neither is obedience the root nor the highest fruit of Christian living. Since the beginning, God's love and grace have always come before His demands. We follow suit with the apostles, by saying, "We love Him because He first loved us" (1John 4:19). Or with Paul, the love of Christ, who died for us, compels us to live, not for ourselves but for God (2 Cor. 5:14-15).


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Herod who??

I must admit, I still get confused by all those Herods mentioned in the New Testament. To keep them straight, I find it helpful to read the biblical text with a genealogy of Herod's family at my side (here's one from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible).

Well, so much for simplicity. Even this chart looks more like an engineering schematic than a family tree. To boil it all down, there are four key members of Herod's family mentioned in the Gospels...

Herod the Great. This is the original Herod of them all. The very name sent shivers up the spine of ancient Jews. Son of Antipater, he was a cunning politician, ruthless dictator, and brilliant architect. He was responsible for constructing the temple mount in Jerusalem, fortress palaces at Herodium and Masada, and a harbor at Caesarea -- all which continue to astound archaeologists and engineers today. In addition to killing several kin who threatened his throne, Herod murdered all the young boys in Bethlehem at the news that…

A review of the HCSB Study Bible

Today, I finally had a chance to browse through a copy of the new HCSB Study Bible.

The HCSB Study Bible is 2272 pages long (plus a few maps). As expected, the translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) version. It ranks well and rivals the ESV in both exegetical accuracy and literary quality. Some of its unique features are:
Its translation of yahweh as "Yahweh" (instead of LORD) in the OT when referring to the personal name of God (e.g. Ex. 3:15)The translation of doulos as "slave" instead of "servant" or "bondservant" in the New Testament (e.g. Rom. 1:1)The translation of christos as "Messiah" in the New Testament, whenever referring to the Jewish expectation of the Messiah (e.g. Matt. 16:16)Capitalized pronouns when referring to GodThe use of contractions in direct discourse (e.g. "let's go" in Mark 1:38)A wonderful feature called bullet notes (small bullets next to key words that may be unfamiliar, poin…

Restoring old photos of Israel

In his latest newsletter, Todd Bolen explains the painstaking process of restoring old photos to create the 8-volume American Colony and Eric Matson Collection. It’s a fascinating project that really makes you appreciate the end result. Here’s his full article…Shortly after producing a collection of modern-day photographs in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (initially released in January 2000), I began work on a supplementary collection that would peel back the recent layers of time to reveal the sites of the Holy Land before the changes brought by modernization.  The initial fruit of this work was the release of 8 volumes of Historic Views of the Holy Land in November 2004.About that same time, I learned that the Library of Congress was digitizing the G. Eric and Edith Matson Negatives.  Between 1966 and 1981, Eric Matson and his beneficiary donated this collection to the Library of Congress. But public access was limited and costly until 2004, when the first negatives were scann…