When Jesus taught about self-righteousness, He compared this issue by using the example of our vision. Jesus commanded His people to abstain from judging in self-righteousness because self-righteousness causes distorted vision. Jesus compared the distorted vision of the self-righteous to a person having a wooden plank lodged in their eye socket. He said not to be critical of the speck in someone else’s eye at the expense of the plank that is in our own eye. This is a severe issue. According to Jesus’ example, self-righteousness can distort our vision and worldview to the degree that someone’s vision would be distorted from having a plank lodged in their face. Here, it is important to consider the truth. Someone who has a plank in their eye doesn’t have distorted vision. They are blind! Thus, Jesus’ point about self-righteousness should be deeply considered. When we are hyper-critical towards others and their issues as if we know better and can do better, we become blinded to our own issues to the point that we are severely crippled – physically and spiritually.
Though it might seem like Jesus’ example is purely philosophical, there are other testimonies of the Bible that show that self-righteousness has a physical effect. Self-righteousness is a spiritually-rooted issue of the heart that affects spiritual discernment, but over time, it can cause genuine blindness to our ability to recognize plain things in a physical sense. The testimony of Job explains how this works. In Job 22:1-20 the Bible shows that Eliphaz responded to Job’s remarks for the third time. Though Job had stated compelling truths about God’s excellence, His righteousness, His judgments, and His sovereignty, Eliphaz seemed totally oblivious to Job’s points. It was as if Eliphaz heard a totally different conversation. It was as if Eliphaz was addressing someone different than Job and was unable to hear the words that Job was actually saying. Eliphaz swore that his view about Job was right. Eliphaz was unwilling to budge from his theory that Job was secretly a hypocrite being judged by God for his sin. Thus, Eliphaz was unable to hear plain dialogue, see plain truth, and by extension, presented himself to be a blind fool.
Eliphaz began his response to Job with sarcastic remarks against Job. Eliphaz asked if a person could be profitable to God. Eliphaz asked if the wisdom of a person is helpful to God. Eliphaz asked if God receives pleasure when people are righteous and blameless as Job claimed to be. In other words, Eliphaz was mocking Job’s perception of himself instead of considering the truths that he spoke. Can a person be profitable to God? The scriptures teach that, together, all people have become unprofitable to God because of our depraved nature. However, the Bible shows that God has taken the lives of many people into His possession by His Spirit and influence to be used for His purposes and were profitable indeed. On our own, we are useless to God since our righteousness is like filthy rags to God. However, when we humble ourselves to God and offer our lives for His purposes, plenty of people have brought glory to God. This is our chief purpose in life!
It is true that our wisdom is not helpful to God since God is the source of the wisdom that we exercise. However, it is not true that God finds no pleasure in the righteous and blameless conduct of His people. God delights in the expression of faith that He implants into the hearts of His people. The Bible teaches that faith without works is dead. Thus, when God’s people show signs of eternal life by living according to the faith that He gives, it brings Him glory, blessing, and praise. God certainly delights in this. Eliphaz was trying to make it seem as if God has no use or pleasure in humanity in order to make Job feel more pitiful about himself. Eliphaz was trying to humble Job instead of letting God do the humbling. Here, it is clear to see that when people live by self-righteous standards, and try to do God’s job, we end up saying things and doing things that are contrary to Him. Eliphaz felt it was his duty to cause Job to see his sin, feel bad about it, repent, and then turn to the Lord. Eliphaz might have felt he was being heroic in his approach to Job. This is not the case though. Job was a sinner but was not guilty of any particular sin that required his immediate repentance. Hence, Eliphaz was trying to get Job to see sin that wasn’t there.
Eliphaz then went on to explain his point of view concerning Job’s heart. He again stated that Job’s difficulties and suffering was on account of his wickedness. Eliphaz was certain that Job was an exceptionally wicked man based on the unusual circumstances that Job suffered. Eliphaz was sure that God was rebuking, correcting, and chastening Job for some great darkness that was in his heart. Therefore, Eliphaz took it upon himself to make assumptions about the degree of sin that was in Job’s heart. Eliphaz accused Job of being someone who made a habit of breaking pledges and having no integrity with men. He accused Job of taking advantage of the poor, widows, and fatherless. In other words, Eliphaz made it seem like Job made a habit of victimizing the underprivileged and weak in order to increase himself, and thus, became the chief enemy of God. This was not true, yet Eliphaz spoke and accused Job as if he had been an eyewitness to these evils. This is how blind self-righteousness had caused Eliphaz to become. It was as if Eliphaz was living in a world where Job was this evil person and he had seen Job doing these things. Eliphaz spoke as if he believed his own lies, having his mind stuck in a world that wasn’t real.
Eliphaz admitted that God is indeed the Most High God, but then went on to accuse Job of speaking against this truth. Eliphaz accused Job of saying things like, “What does God know?” Eliphaz made it sound like Job was trying to pridefully escape God’s judgments, denied His omniscience, and could escape His judgments. Yet, in Job 21:22 Job stated the complete opposite. There, Job asked his friends if anyone could teach knowledge to God. Job stated that God judges all from on high according to His omniscience, power, and sovereignty. Job said the complete opposite of what Eliphaz accused. It was as if Eliphaz heard a completely different conversation. It was as if Eliphaz was deaf and couldn’t physically hear the things Job had just said. This is how self-righteousness can affect the human senses.
Eliphaz asked Job if he would continue in sin even though Job was not a practitioner of sin in that moment. Eliphaz compared Job to the people who died as victims of the flood during the days of Noah. It was true that those people denied and rejected God’s righteousness and judgments. It is true that those people proudly mocked God’s judgments and continued in their sin unto their demise. However, Job was not like those people. Job confessed his nature as a sinner, but was blameless of any particular wrongdoing that provoked God to judge. His suffering was not on account of some deep-rooted evil that God was making an example of. Job’s issues were nothing like the days of Noah. God’s motives to allowing Job to suffer were nothing like His motives to judge the world in the days of Noah. Yet Eliphaz was convinced, and so he pleaded with Job to repent, lest he suffer more like the victims of the flood.
It was at that point that Eliphaz revealed the cause of his skewed perspective. As Eliphaz described the evil of the flood victims, he was sure to explain that he was not like them. Eliphaz was sure to explain that he lives his life far from the ways of the wicked. He didn’t think like them. He didn’t act like them. He considered himself to be a righteous man and was glad to see the judgments of God against the wicked. He claimed to be an innocent man and was glad to see the justice of God against evil. Therefore, he felt he was offering some form of charity to Job in pleading with him to repent. Eliphaz’s statements show that he felt very highly of himself. He criticized Job’s faith, but didn’t see how highly he had exalted himself. Without knowing it, Eliphaz spoke of himself as though he had no fault; as if he was above reproach. Eliphaz was just as sinful as any other person. If not for the grace and mercy of God, Eliphaz would have drown with the rest of the world during the flood of the days of Noah. He would not have been excused for his merits since it was Noah’s faith that allowed him to escape judgment – not righteousness.
The Bible is clear to show the symptoms of self-righteousness. Eliphaz was unable to hear plain words, unable to see plain truths, and unable to recognize his own faults. Jesus was right. When we live by our own self-righteous standards and become critical of others, we become blind. We forget our own pitiful nature and think too highly of ourselves. Where we think we are being a service to others, we are harmful and offensive to God. While we think we might be doing good, we are corrupt and acting as fools. Seeing that this is natural human tendency, even for those who know of God and follow Him, we should all seek the Lord that He would reveal these issues to us of our own hearts so as to confess our faults, seek His forgiveness, and walk according to humility by His Spirit, lest we continue in blindness unto brutal consequences.