How do we judge other people and ourselves to be righteous and trustworthy? That is a basic life question we tend to apply to all areas of life. It determines who we buy goods and services from, who we vote for, who we marry, where we live, who we allow in our homes, and more. But when it pertains to spiritual matters, asking and answering the question of character regarding others and ourselves must go above and beyond the general tendency of mankind to base judgments on human standards. If we judge ourselves as righteous or that others are righteous simply because we/they do good deeds and behave better than the criminal or unethical people in society, that’s not a good enough measuring stick, according to what is stated repeatedly in the scriptures.
Based on what God tells us through those who wrote down his words by the Holy Ghost’s inspiration, people can be deemed righteous if their words and actions line up with God’s word and his will. In fact, given that we humans are corrupt in our basic nature and the best of us are imperfect, that’s reason enough to look higher than our human race to determine what genuine righteousness looks like.
The perfect, triune Godhead is the only One who is completely righteous in nature without any flaws and, therefore, the only One who can make a person righteous. In order for any of us to be truly righteous, we must humbly accept his righteousness which can only be given to us by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Basing righteousness on human standards is no righteousness at all. The Bible even goes so far to say or imply that our own human-based righteousness is iniquity. Don’t believe me? Check out these scriptures teaching that righteousness is only seen in us when God’s word and will are reflected in both our words and actions:
Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present. For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:11-12
When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. Ezekiel 33:13
For I bear them record that they [unbelieving Jews] have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. Romans 10:2-3
…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: Philippians 3:8-9
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. Isaiah 64:6