I’ve heard people often say, “I’m my own worst critic.” I’ve even said this before about myself. But I don’t really think it’s true. At least not all the time, and definitely not for myself. Sure, when it comes to critiquing my own preaching or writing, I might be more critical than other people. But if I’m talking generally about my life, I’m not my own worst critic.
If I’m honest, I often think I’m much better than I really am.
There’s an account in the book of Luke where an expert in the law is testing Jesus and asks what he should do to inherit eternal life. The dialogue Jesus and this expert has is fascinating:
‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’ He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’
Notice what happens when he has to deal with the reality that he doesn’t live up to expectations. What does the expert in the law when forced to deal with the reality that he’s a failure at obeying the law?
He makes excuses for himself. He can justify his own before. The expert is faced with a problem; does he really do this? And when faced with our own inabilities to meet God’s demands, we often try to justify ourselves. We look at our own problems and make excuses; we try to explain away any tension of criticism we might feel.
When I come face to face of my sin, I have two options. I have the option to be honest and say, “Lord, have mercy” or I can be dishonest with myself and the reality of my own heart. I can be like David who wrote, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” Or I can be like the Pharisees who are quick to hide their own failures and showcase their holiness.
Excuses Instead of Confession
Far too often, I try to justify myself and my behavior. Or worse, I’ll even try to flatter myself with praise for my own holy behaviors.
The problem is I am not as good as I think I am.
When I look in the mirror, I make excuses not confession. Because it makes me feel better about myself.
This is where we need the law to do it’s harsh work and bring us back to reality. This is where we need the full weight of the hammer to come in and shatter any self-made delusions about our own goodness. We have to come to terms with our own lack of goodness.
"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” – Romans 3:19-20
When faced with the reality that the demands of God and our obedience do not match, we will either fall on our knees in repentance begging for mercy or we will rely on our own self-justification. The harsh criticism of God’s word will at times bring us back to our knees. It will remind us that we’ve become deluded in our thinking and knock us back down.
The law puts me in my place as it criticizes where I fatter myself. The law puts me in my place as it forces me to be honest about myself and the true place where my hope can be found.