Righteousness And Self-Righteousness Meaning (Biblical Definition)

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Sometimes we get confused with the terms righteousness and self-righteousness. So, what do righteousness and self-righteousness mean?

What is Righteousness?

Righteousness means doing the right things at the right time based on the standard of God.

The truth is that it is not easy to do the right things at the right time.

It is those that have gotten to a state of perfection that can continually do the right things at the right time.

That is why as Christian, we can only live righteous with the help of God through the Holy Spirit.

There is no way you can do the right things according to God’s standards if you do not know the will of God.

The only way to know the will of God is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. So that the holy spirit can direct you in all your steps.

The only way you can be filled with the holy spirit is by being born again.

As the name holy spirit implies, it is a spirit that helps you live holy and righteous.

The holy spirit is also known as our teacher and the holy spirit is there to teach and direct us on the right path to go.

The Holy Spirit can be likened to a GPS navigator that can help us travel on the right path in life.

But most times as people, we don’t listen to the Holy Spirit when he speaks and directs us instead we listen to our own minds and do what feels convenient for us.

The source of our living righteousness should be God. God should be the one influencing our decisions.

It is not always easy to do the will of God; whenever we are not doing the will of God, we are doing the wrong thing, which means we are sinning.

Let us see what the Bible say about righteousness.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

2 Cor 5: 21

This Bible passage shows that we are not righteous because of the things we do based on what we feel is right.

We are righteous because Jesus took our sins and planted a seed of righteousness in us. It is the seed of righteousness that has been planted in us that makes us do righteous works.

That’s the Bible says that we are the righteousness of God.

For instance, if you have a pet or let’s say you possess it, the pet is automatically going to get some benefits because it is attached to you.

Once we become born again and become the righteousness of God, one of the benefits we get is that we get the seed of righteousness imputed in us, which gives us the ability to start living a righteous life.

Living a righteous life is doable not by your power or might but by the spirit of God in you.

“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”.

1 John 3:10

The Bible also says that we must practice righteousness. It is not enough to have the seed of righteousness inside of you, you also need to practice righteousness daily.

That is how you will become a better Christian and be more like Jesus Christ.

If you don’t practice righteousness then you are not of God.

Being righteous is a gradual and continuous process which is why you must practice righteousness.

If you practice righteousness and you are not a born-again Christian then that is self-righteousness. We will be discussing self-righteousness soon and you will see why it cannot take you far.

So, it is not enough to be morally right based on what you think is right but you need to give your life to Jesus Christ and begin to live righteous based on what the word of God says.

The best thing in life is to know God, accept Jesus Christ, and begin to practice righteousness and life is going to be beautiful.

It sounds easy but living righteous doesn’t come cheap. You need the help and grace of God to live righteously.

“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness.”

2 Corinthians 9:10.

The Bible passage is not talking about the normal seed we know. It is referring to the seed of righteousness.

God supplies the seed of righteousness and also the bread (word of God)

A Christian that shares the word of God with other people is sowing the seed of righteousness in them and also feeding them with spiritual food.

God has said that He will supply and multiply the seed sown by the sower thereby causing an increase in righteousness for the person that shares the word and also the person that receives the word.

That’s really powerful!

You can now see that righteousness can be increased if you practice righteousness because God has said He will multiply the fruits of your righteousness.

For you to water the seed of righteousness in your life or someone else, you need to water it with the word of God.

Read and study the word of God but do not stop there instead you should also practice what the word of God says.

By practising the word of God says, you have started your journey to start living righteously.

What is Self-righteousness?

Self-righteousness means living right according to your own moral standard or the standard of society.

When practising self-righteousness, you are telling God you have the strength to live righteously.

And the Bible says that the only way to access God is through Jesus Christ. That means that people who practice self-righteousness will not see God.

A self-righteousness is also a form of pride because most people that practice self-righteousness actually judge themselves as being right and they see others as wicked.

“The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector”

Luke 18:11

The Pharisee in the Bible passage above is an example of someone practising self-righteousness because he is judging himself good already based on his own standard and judging others wicked based on his own standard also.

As a Christain, you should not practice self-righteousness instead practice the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.

The righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ is easy to practice because you are riding on what Jesus Christ has done already.

I can tell you of a fact that everyone at a point in their lives has practised self-righteousness but you will definitely get tired when after some time.

It is the normal nature of man to get tired after working, the same way you will get tired after practising self-righteousness sometimes.

What does the Bible say about self-righteousness?

But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.

Isaiah 64: 6

The Bible verse above is referring to a self-righteousness which is why it is written as “our righteousness”

No matter how right you see yourself, you can only be right in the presence of God when you live and are led by the spirit of God.

The Bible says that those that are led by the spirit are the sons of God.

If you are led by your flesh, then you cannot live righteous according to God’s standard.

For instance, the game of football has its rules therefore you cannot use the techniques of basketball to score in a football match. They are two different ball games.

In the same way, you cannot Live righteous according to your own rules instead follow the leading of the spirit of God to live righteous the way God wants it.


Living a self-righteous life is a deception from the devil to keep us away from following God. These days we all it hard to discern between true righteousness and self-righteousness.

Living a righteous life is doable but can only be done when God empowers you.

You should also make sure you read and study the Bible regularly as this is where you will continuously draw your strength from.

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