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selfrighteousToday in Paul’s Letter to the Romans we read about Abraham being justified not because of his good works (although that measure could have been used) but rather Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, a more important measure. (ROM 4:1-8) The words righteous and righteousness have always made me squirm a little so this morning I looked them up and found that they were the adjective and noun describing the condition of acting in accord with divine or moral law, free from guilt or sin OR morally right or justifiable arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality, e.g. righteous indignation. That helped me because I sometimes think of people others call righteous as angry in their pursuit of social justice. With this definition in my pocket I can be more tolerant as I, too, sometimes feel my blood begin to boil at things happening in the world.

I went one step further in my search this morning, however, and found the root of my discomfort. When I put “self” in front of righteous, I found the following: characterized by a certainty, especially an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior. Synonyms abounded: sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, smug, priggish, complacent, pious, preachy, superior, hypocritical. My first thought was that we probably all can name someone like that and then I decided I might want to look in a mirror on occasion to be sure that my faith and my sense of righteousness lies in God and not in myself! Look deep, I said to me, because it may be an occasional arising that eludes your consciousness. Upon reflection, I think that recognition might just be the reason for the “squirminess” that calls for some attention today. Once again – not where I thought this practice of writing would take me but somewhere I need to go!