Sins Of Righteousness

What’s the ultimate sin?

I’ve always figured sin was sin, none any better or worse than others. I’ve always wondered about folks who seem to categorize sins and set themselves apart as though there’s something admirable about belonging to a better class of sinner.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that my small group is studying The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. Last night we discussed Keller’s assertion that one sin underlies all of our other sins and our righteousness—in his words, “the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord.”

We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope and trust in things other than God, and that in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of those things. [p. 78]

Keller maintains that even when we do right, we’re doing it for wrong reasons. While we’re busy patting ourselves on the back for our generosity or service, we’re ignoring our self-serving motivations. To the extent that we’re doing right in order to earn something, we’re setting ourselves up as self-saviors. And whatever we earn cannot replace Jesus.

This challenges me. It forces me to acknowledge that I being nothing to the table. No matter what I do, even when it’s exactly the right thing, falls short.

This was Jesus’ message to the Pharisees, and it’s his message to me. Any time I place my security anywhere but the cross, I miss the mark.

The parable of The Lost Son commonly involves understanding the unmerited forgiveness that’s showered on the returning wayward son. But that lost son understood and admitted his mistakes.

The older brother is much more difficult to understand because he represents those who stay home, follow the rules, and are every bit as lost. That brother couldn’t see his hardened heart and his sense that he’d earned his father’s love by following the rules and meeting expectations.

Neither brother could earn his father’s love because he already loved each completely and unconditionally. And that’s how God sees me in Jesus. Neither my bad deeds nor my good ones get me a single bit farther from—or closer to—God.

He’s right here, because of the cross.

Do you struggle as much as I do with perceiving the sin beneath your righteousness?

If you haven’t seen yet, may I suggest this short video showing an imaginary, but all-too-real, conversation in the context of The Lord’s Prayer?