I am sure you must have heard in the past how people would say things like this - ‘I have done everything I know to do’. You must have also heard people say ‘I have done everything God said in His word, and yet it hasn’t worked’. Man is naturally committed to self-defense. Man will always justify himself even towards God. Self-justification is the nature of the fallen man. After man fell in the garden, he was right and the other persons were wrong. In Genesis, chapter three, verses twelve and thirteen succinctly described how man was trying to find a way of escape out of a major error being committed, through self-defense.
‘And the man said, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, what is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, the serpent beguiled me, and I did eat’ (Genesis 3:12-13).What this passage simply depicted is the fact that, Adam blamed God for giving her Eve who made him committhe crime. Eve inturn blamed the serpent for the crime.
As long as Job kept on justifying himself, he remained at the same spot. Job 9:2b-4 has this to say: ‘How should man be just with God? If he will contend with Him, he cannot answer Him one of a thousand. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against Him, and hath prospered?’ Job 9:20 also says ‘If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse’. Our self-justification does not move God. There is nothing you can ever dothat would make God wrong and you right.Job was a righteous man; and though he was righteous, God allowed him to suffer and used that suffering to teach him a valuable lesson about self-justification. At the end of Job’s ordeal, he had learned a vital lesson. Even in the last chapter of that book of Job, Job himself had this to say: ‘Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes’ (Job 42:6).
People have lost so much valuable things just because of self-justification. The unfaithful servant reported in Luke 19:20-22 missed his reward because he was simply justifying his actions. He was handed a talent to trade with by the Lord, he refused to trade with the talent and then blamed the giver of the talent on the day of reckoning. The rich young ruler also reported in Luke 18:18-19 also missed his salvation after successfully justifying himself through moral uprightness. He said: “All these I have kept from my youth” (v. 21). To which Jesus responds: “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (v. 22).
When we attempt to justify ourselves, we do it to our own hurt. Proverbs 1:5 says ‘A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels’. Also in Proverbs 9:8-9, it says ‘Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will yet be wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning’.
The Pharisees were good at self-justification. In the entire New Testament, they were pre-occupied with proving to everyone and themselves they were just fine the way they were. This singular act made them miss out in the entire salvation package that Jesus brought to mankind. Jesus’ message could have set them free but instead, self-justification blinded their eyes and toughened their hearts, and they remained dead in their sins. Their self-justification, alongside with hatred toward Christ made them kill him. As the Pharisees' example proves, self-justification is not something to take lightly because the end result is bondage to sin and blindness to the light.
Practical Steps to Avoiding Self-Justification
To overcome Self-justification, an understanding of who you are is very important and paramount to it. This is because when you know you are a child of God, and he is your Lord, it won’t be difficult to understand the place of correction and to be well guided and led by his word. This is because God’s word will always guide one to fulfilment and to the place where you will not have to justify yourself on your grounds. Justification will come in on the grounds of God’s word.Romans 5:1 says Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Justification is not about you; it is whom the Lord justifies that is indeed justified. It is what God has done for you, not what you can attain on your own.
Also, humility is important to overcome self-justification. This is because in the first place, one who justifies himself has a trait of pride in him and as long as we are in Christ, there is no place for boastings. Romans 3:27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also… who are we boasting to, is it the God who madeus and has justified us himself? A man that is humble will be lifted by God in due time and this is a man that can receive all of his inheritance in God and all that is available for him in Christ, this is because he is a man that looks into the Law of liberty, getting more nourished by God’s word and not leaving any opportunity for self-justification.
Another way to overcome self-justification is to understand that God alone knows the heart of men and you don’t need to show men who you are made of, you will not be judged by them but by God. Luke 16:14-15 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.So, what is the point for self-justification based on the above scripture? God himself knows.
1Cor 8:1-2 Now, as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. From this scriptures, we can see that there is no reason to be justify yourself in the first place because you might think you know or have done all you know to do but you might have not done anything. You might just need to seek God or others. As a result, there is really no reason to justify yourself. Let he that thinks he stands take heed lest he falls. It’s important here to renew one’s mind and understand that you can’t know it all, and it could just be your thinking and not a reality. We should all be at a point where we don’t try to provide excuses on our behaviour, trying to justify our behaviours and denying negative feedbacks associated with such behaviours. Be humble and accept responsibility for whatever you might have done, seeing corrections as good things to bring out the best in us.
To what end is self-justification? Accept your faults one to another, the bible says. Then you make amends where necessary and move on with your life.