If you are a child of the Spirit, you see things differently than those who are a child of the world. Life encourages us to succeed, to compete and to be proud of our achievements. These things, in and of themselves may not be bad, but we respond differently depending on whether we’re behaving as children of the world or children of the Spirit. If our thoughts and aspirations aren’t filtered through the Bible and the Holy Spirit, they can become clouded by fleshly desires resulting in an unhealthy view of who we are. And when believers, even the strongest and most mature of us, begin to allow worldly aspirations in our heart, it could reveal itself in self-righteousness. We may find ourselves competing in the most holy of things, losing our path and becoming the very thing we are trying to avoid. Jesus warns us about that with the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. It says in Luke 18, verse 9:
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:”
Jesus goes on to talk about a Pharisee, one assumed to be a man of God, approaching the temple proclaiming in his self-righteousness how happy he is that he is not like other sinners, and how proud he is of his righteous acts. Then a tax collector humbles himself before God with a broken spirit acknowledging that he is a sinner in need of mercy. Then Jesus proclaims that it was the tax collector who went home justified before God. Life teaches us to compare ourselves to others and to aspire to be the best. But Jesus reminds us that when we see things through his eyes, humility and a broken spirit are how we are to respond to the world and especially to a Holy God.
True believers should never be self-righteous, because true believers know that even on our best day our righteousness is like filthy rags before the Father. Our flesh makes us prone to sin and predisposed to desires that are contrary to the Spirit. When we are honest with ourselves, we understand that because we are humans in a fallen world, we aren’t much different than anyone else. As followers of Christ our job isn’t to judge, to look down on others or to elevate ourselves. Our job is to keep our eyes on God, to act in love and humility, with grace and mercy towards others as we try to reflect God’s nature as opposed to our fleshly, self-righteous nature.