How many of us have said or thought about ourselves, “I’m basically a good person”? If we could be brutally honest, I believe it would be 100% (minus all sociopaths). Most of us have an inner need to be considered good. That is why we so often compare ourselves to others and rationalize our behavior against theirs. Deep down lurks the fear that we are not good (we know those secret things about ourselves). So, if we can determine how we stack up with others, at least part of the time, we’re okay.
Unfortunately, this form of comparison leads to a host of negative things such as jealousy, judgment, pride, arrogance, despondence, depression, apathy, etc… the list goes on and on. Any goodness we are clinging to actually evaporates in the above list. Jesus stated it clearly, “No one is good – except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)
Perhaps the greatest danger in believing we are basically good people is that it is a swift, short slide into our own righteousness. While most of us want to deny we are self-righteous people, how quickly do we seek justice if we feel we’ve been wronged? Are we compelled to defend ourselves when we have been wrongly accused? How easy is it to look at the mess of someone else’s life and be rightfully disgusted? Do we ever view the misfortune of others as God’s judgment? Do we secretly rejoice when an offender gets what is due? Could these actions and feelings indicate that we could be immature Christians and “not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness”? (Heb 5:13)
Romans 3:10 tells us, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” What we fail to realize is that God set the bar too high on purpose. None of our posturing, no amount of good deeds, no comparisons with anyone, can ever qualify. This is a holy set-up to keep us dependent upon Jesus – the only sinless One — who demonstrated sacrificial love no human can attain. Only He is righteous through His suffering and death that also made Him perfect: the Source of salvation for all. (Heb 5:9) God anticipated every way we would attempt to justify ourselves. He made it a non-issue by leaving NO route to righteousness except through Jesus, who shares His Righteousness – what He alone earned — with us when we believe in Him. So…what is it, again, that we’re trying to prove?
I believe it really boils down to our identity. Fundamentally, our belief about who we are drives our thoughts and behavior; and our behaviors should reciprocally prove that belief. But, none of us can go the distance in our goodness. If our identities have truly been changed because of Jesus’ gift of salvation that made us new, then why are we still so preoccupied with our goodness? This has to be one of the enemy’s most cleaver schemes: the human goodness we strive to achieve is also the primary obstacle to wearing the Righteousness of Christ. When we see ourselves as good, we lose the opportunity to be overwhelmed by God’s Goodness, which includes being identified by His Righteousness. So, are we willing to be painfully honest about our lack of goodness in exchange for freedom we’ve never known?