And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
(a) Trusted that they were righteous. Self-righteousness is trusting in your own righteousness. It is believing that you can make yourself right with God.
Jesus and the epistle writers drew a line between our righteousness (Matt. 6:1, Rom. 9:31, 10:3, 5) and the righteousness that comes from God (see entry for Matt. 6:33).
(b) Viewed others with contempt. Self-righteousness is sometimes manifested in feelings of superiority towards others. “I am right, you are wrong. My way is better than your way.”
See entry for Self-righteousness.
“The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
I thank You that I am not like other people. The self-righteous man justifies himself by comparing his performance with others. But this kind of comparative righteousness only testifies to sin. “I am not such a bad sinner as others, but I am a sinner nonetheless.” Our righteousness can never be established by reference to sin. True righteousness is a gift from God. True righteousness comes from trusting in Jesus, the Righteous One (2 Cor. 5:21).
‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
(a) I fast twice a week. The self-righteous man boasts about his religious performance. “Look at all I am doing for the Lord.”
(b) I pay tithes of all that I get. The self-righteous man sees himself as a law-keeper. “I am blameless in terms of the law” (Php. 3:6). He does not tithe from a heart of generosity, but because tithing earns him the favor of heaven – or so he thinks.
“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’
God, be merciful. Mercy is God’s help in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). Mercy is God forgiving all our sins (Heb. 8:12).
Mercy is one facet of God’s grace (Heb. 4:16). Just as God is rich in grace (Eph. 1:7, 2:7), he is rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4). He is the God of all grace (1 Pet. 5:10) and the Father of all mercies (2 Cor. 1:3).
“I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Justified. To be justified, is to be made right with God. No one is justified or made right with God by doing good works or keeping the law (see entry for Rom. 3:20). Rather, our justification is paid for with the blood of Jesus (Rom. 5:9) and comes to us as a gift of grace (Rom. 3:24, Tit. 3:7) that is received by faith (Rom. 3:28, 5:1, Gal. 3:24).
See entry for Justification.
A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
(a) What shall I do to inherit eternal life? There is nothing you can do to inherit eternal life – it’s an inheritance. You only get it when someone dies, and Someone did.
Like the ruler, some people are confused about salvation. They think that if they are basically good people, God will have to admit them into his kingdom. Such people are truly lost for they are relying on their self-righteousness. See entry for Self-righteousness.
(b) Eternal life is living forever in union with Jesus; see entry for John 3:15.
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.
(a) Why do you call Me good? Jesus knew the ruler was self-righteous and considered himself a good man. Jesus cut straight to the heart of the man’s sin by immediately challenging his standard of goodness (Rom. 3:12).
(b) No one is good except God alone. God alone is the definition of goodness and righteousness.
The defining ingredient of self-righteousness is that you are providing your own standard of righteousness. When you decide what is good and right, perhaps on the basis of your own moral judgment or the law, you are eating from the wrong tree and usurping God’s role as the Righteous Judge. True righteousness comes from trusting in Jesus, the Righteous One (2 Cor. 5:21).
And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”
The self-righteous man boasts in his law-keeping. “God must be pleased with me because I have kept the rules and passed the test.” He does not realize that he is an idolater glorifying himself and a law-breaker to boot (see Jas. 2:10). By claiming to be good on his own merits, he effectively calls God a liar (see Rom. 3:10, 23).
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