To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable. Luke 18:9
Self-righteousness is ugly. It is ugly to God and it is ugly to others. Self-righteousness is a blind spot of the worst kind, as it invites avoidance. Everyone is offended by it except the one exuding its offensive odor. There is an air of rejection waiting to be injected into its victim. Their goal is to afflict the comfortable. They look for those comfortable in sin, as defined by their self-righteous standards. They strain to apply their petty preferences to everyone else. It is really sad and a little pathetic, but many of us have been down this harsh and critical road ourselves. Much to our embarrassment, we have been the culprits of caustic and unfair judgment of others.
Conversations inevitably degrade to a tone of “us” versus “them”. It is a slippery and seductive slope that sucks one into a nauseating cycle of one-upsmanship. It becomes a competition between who is the “most spiritual.” It may be measured by tone of voice. The rationale is that the most spiritual-sounding voice must be the most righteous. What is even more “spiritual” is to accent the spiritual tone of voice with churchy words and phrases that only the insiders can interpret. Religious activities become a parade of people hungering and thirsting for the accolades of others. Pleasing and sucking up to people replace passion for God. It is a sad state of affairs when the self-righteous become the influencers.
Sincere Christians become confused, and non-Christians are repelled. The heart of Jesus is riled by the self-righteous. It is not acceptable to Him, nor should it be to us. Pride is the driver behind self-righteousness. It hijacks a good discipline like prayer, and turns it into a sideshow of sorts. Ironically, what God meant for good is twisted into evil. A self-righteous person who prays draws attention to himself rather than God. God must shudder when He witnesses the feeble attempt of a self-righteous prayer. It leaves the lips of the self-righteous and falls to the ground, never making it to Christ for His consideration. Pride pulls prayer back down to earth. Prideful praying is ineffective and unacceptable to God.
Can pride really engulf a praying person? Unfortunately, it absolutely can. This is why it is imperative for God to root out pride in our lives on a regular basis. Pride never goes away. Pride lusts after God’s job. Pride is not content in the role of a humble, submitted, and obedient follower of Christ. Pride puts others down to build up its own ego. Humility, in contrast, is quick to build others up and bridge them to God. The humble are quick to confess their sins and shortcomings.
There is a self-awareness and understanding of their blind spots; so avoid self-righteousness like the plague. Root out sin in your own life and watch the righteousness of Christ shine through you. Humility is the remedy for self-righteousness. Humility launches prayers to heaven and attracts the ear of God; so talk to the Lord on behalf of people, not about people. He pours out His grace on the humble. His grace purges self-righteousness; so prayers are heard and answered for Christ’s sake.
The Bible says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me never forget I am no better than an unbeliever, but I may be better off because of Jesus, in His name I pray, amen.
Application: What condescending attitude do I need to repent of and ask a friend to hold me accountable to change by God’s grace.
Related Readings: Daniel 9:5-6; Matthew 5:20; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5