The Importance of Humility

Luke 18:9-14 (NKJV) “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat 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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”
Self-righteousness is the sin of the religious. It is the sin of the proud. It is a disease that blinds the eyes of the most spiritual. It is the condition that caused the religious leaders of Christ’s day to deny their own need to be saved. It was the sin that caused them to seek His death instead.  Self-righteousness is so subtle that it can grip the mind and heart of even the most unsuspecting believer. Once infected, there is little antidote except humiliation. There is a saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best prevention for self-righteousness is cultivating and maintaining an attitude of humility in view of the cross of Christ.

Self-righteousness is a distorted and inflated view of our own goodness. It is assuming a position of judge and jury in our own trial. It is human nature to justify ourselves while condemning others. Because we are imperfect, we find our greatest source of justification through selectively comparing our goodness and righteousness to that of others. It is like selectively hanging our dirty laundry next to someone’s laundry that is dirtier than our own. In doing so we feel good about ourselves.  In so doing we avoid perceiving and admitting that our laundry is still dirty. When someone else with whiter laundry comes along and hangs theirs next to ours, we are quick to point out their spots and maybe even throw a little dirt. On judgment day our righteousness will not be compared to that of others but to the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ that is whiter than snow.  When placed next to His, our righteousness will be as filthy rags before Him.

The point of Jesus’ parable is clear:  no matter how good we are, we are not good enough. Our only cure for self-righteousness is found in an attitude of humility whereby we admit our sinful condition and come to God. We come pleading for mercy as did the tax collector.  Through an attitude of humility we submit our filthy rags to the Launderer who can make us whiter than snow as He washes us in His own blood. Only the humble will walk away clean and justified in the sight of God.

Do we identify ourselves with the Pharisee or with the lowly tax-collector? Do we justify ourselves by selectively comparing ourselves to others? Do we feel better about ourselves because we are not as “bad” as someone else?  Are we quick to judge, criticize, and condemn others? Are we counting on our own righteousness to get us into heaven? If so, then we have been infected with self-righteousness.  It has blinded us to our own sinful condition. Worse still, it has prevented us from receiving the remedy we need to be justified before God. Don’t wait for humiliation to reveal your condition. Cease your comparisons, judgments, criticisms, and condemnations of others. Choose to humble yourself before a holy God and cry out for His mercy.
Prayer:  “Heavenly Father, forgive me a sinner. Forgive me for trusting in my own righteousness. Forgive me for criticizing and condemning others in order to justify myself. I choose to humble myself and repent of all self-righteous comparisons. I humbly plead for Your mercy and grace. My complete righteousness is found in You and You alone. Help me to always walk humbly before You, I pray this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”