There was a group of people-
- Who got organized when they came to the conclusion that peoples’ sins were keeping them from the blessings of God.
- Who were religious people- they attended church every week.
- Who wanted to extend their ways outside of their church in everyday life.
- Who were part of a social movement- cared for ‘ordinary people’ and wanted them to live right.
- Who swore by their Bibles but also set up a list of rules “Do this- don’t do that” to preserve traditions and so if they followed those rules they would be ok in the sight of God.
- Who were politically involved- they influenced people and government to preserve their way of life.
They don’t sound like a horrible group of people do they?
Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs”.
This group of people were known as the Pharisees. If I had to summarize Jesus’ description of the Pharisees with one word, it would be self-righteous. I want to show you what Jesus said about the Pharisees in Matthew 23. While doing that I’ll list 7 traits of the self-righteous Christian that we as Christians should avoid.
I also want to show you how to not be like these guys- and it starts here:
Matthew 23:12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Seven traits of self-righteous Christians
- Self-righteous Christians deter others from embracing Christianity. Matthew 23:13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
- Self-righteous Christians take advantage of those in bad circumstances for their own gain. Matthew 23:14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore, you will receive greater condemnation.
- Self-righteous Christians teach bad doctrine. Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
- Self-righteous Christians can’t be trusted and don’t understand the spiritual order of things. Matthew 23: 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
- Self-righteous Christians act “churchy”- they nit pick what happens inside their church and are judgmental about those outside of their church. Matthew 23: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
- Self-righteous Christians don’t allow God to work on them first through the Holy Spirit. Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
- Self-righteous Christians are spiritually dead on the inside. Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Quite a list- Woe to us if we slip into self-righteousness! But thank God that He has shown a way for us to live that avoids the Pharisaical lifestyle. He has shown us through the writings of a well-known Pharisee- a “Hebrew of the Hebrews”- the Apostle Paul.
More about the solution to the problem of self-righteousness in the next installment.
Grace & Peace