Luke 18:9-14 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”One of the biggest problems for the Pharisees was their self-righteousness. I believe initially that the teachers of the law had the intent of leading Israel in following God. Somewhere along the way, they took a wrong turn of being godly to being law-keepers. They became so focused on the law and knowing the law that they became self-righteous. When law and self-righteousness walk hand in hand; this creates no need for God.
Wow! How often do I do this? Somewhere, I take a wrong turn and begin to say to myself, “Look at all you have done for God. And, compared to others, you have the knowledge, and the spiritual down. You have it and they don’t.” A self-righteousness of this kind is dangerous. At this point, I have no need for God. At least that is how I approach life. I begin to rely on “my” knowledge, “my” righteousness, “my” abilities, etc. I become distant from God. I cease to have conversations with Him. I’m headed for a crash.
This parable is not so much another story about the Pharisees as much as it is a warning about self-righteousness. Jesus is warning about a type of righteousness that has no need for God. He warns in verse 14 of the crash through being humbled. When that crash happens, I have two choices: Turn back to God or try harder at my righteousness. I’ve done both…and I’m here to tell you both are hard. The try harder approach is just a denial of truth that leads to deeper problems. The turning back to God is painful as I face the truth about my self-righteousness. However, the turn back to God unleashes His grace and healing. Whereas, the try harder has no grace and healing.
I need periodical heart and soul checks like this verse. I am challenged this week to look at my self-righteousness. It is time to repent and lay this before God…once again. I may not like what I see, but I will like the result form the merciful, gracious, loving God of the universe.
1. Which one are you today; the Pharisee or the tax collector?
2. How has law-keeping hindered your relationship with God? How has it helped?
3. Who do you compare your spirituality with? What does that look like for you?
4. Have you seen signs of this in the Church today? Give examples.
5. This week ask God to reveal any self-righteousness you may be carrying. Let His grace, mercy, and love replace that self-righteousness.
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