Luke 18.9-14 – Self Righteousness
Posted: 5 July 2011 in Luke

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Yesterday I encountered a bisexual woman on the internet who seems to have had a very rough time from evangelical Christians. By the sound of it she lived in the American Bible belt, and had precious few friends. This sort of thing makes me ashamed to be a Christian. Like the Pharisees who were forever catching the sharp edge of Jesus’ tongue, those kinds of Christian are too full of their own self righteousness, and have a marked reluctance to acknowledge their own sin. It is not actually unknown for people to end up committing suicide when they are as friendless as that woman seemed to be.

The Pharisee in the above parable is a good example of self righteousness. He is absolutely full of himself, and has no doubt about his own impeccable standing before God. So far as he is concerned, the publican’s only function in life is to be a foil against whom he can compare himself favourably. On the other hand, the publicans were notoriously dishonest, and this one seems to be well aware of his sinful nature. But paradoxically, the fact that he acknowledged his sin, instead of presuming to judge somebody else over theirs, meant that it was he who went down from the Temple in good standing with God.

If we do not observe Jesus’ injuction in Matthew 7.1-2, we might have to account for the consequences afterwards:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

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