The DEEP

White Hat Syndrome

is a type of pride.

Romans 9:30–10:4 (NKJV)

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written:

“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

This is about “white hat syndrome.” The Jews were so sure that they’re the good guys that they didn’t pay attention. The result is that they missed the point, even stumbled over it.

Notice the connection between pride and salvation by works. Paul notes that, “Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness,” didn’t succeed because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. The problem with righteousness by works is that you can claim credit for it.

Conversely, the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith.

You can’t claim credit for the righteousness of faith. That’s humbling.

That’s God’s design.


Since we understand that righteousness is by faith, white hat syndrome isn’t a problem for Christians, right?

Fat chance. This is a struggle for every one of us and is one of the biggest impediments to spreading the gospel. Non-believers are right when they complain about Christians having a “holier than thou” attitude. You have this problem. I have this problem. We all have this problem.

The problem is that sin is so nutzo that even when we’re being humble, we can take pride in our humility. So even when we recognize our struggle with white hat syndrome, and battle against it, we see ourselves as superior to those who don’t. We put on that white hat.

One of the weirdest and ugliest things about sin is that we’re at our worst when we’re right. The law is true and good. The Jews were right in that.

Unfortunately, they knew they were right.


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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.