“Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
– Luke 18:9-14 (NLT)
If you think that passage doesn’t apply to you, then chances are, it does.
Self-righteousness, with PRIDE at its root, manifests itself in our lives in various ways. Maybe it’s subtle for you – silently influencing your thoughts and perceptions of others around you on a day-to-day basis. Or, perhaps you’re like me, where it’s directly at the forefront of your conscience as you struggle to remind yourself just how IMPERFECT you yourself really are (…before someone else has to remind you, which is never fun).
Either way, it’s definitely an issue for many, if not all, of us. Some may be better at hiding it than others, but it’s definitely present and people can oft-times sense it during encounters with us. As followers of Christ, whose mission is to introduce Christ to those who have yet to received His grace, having unchecked self-righteousness can virtually disable our ability to effectively administer Christ’s love to others. Instead, we exude a sort of “I got my life in order. You? …eh, not so much” attitude towards others who don’t fit our individually concocted ideals of ‘righteousness’ – which really just means that we think they’re guilty of certain ‘sins’ that we ourselves aren’t.
So, in short, I think we all can identify with the pride of the ‘Pharisee’ while taking a lesson of humility from the ‘Tax Collector’.