Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 NLT)
I began thinking about the subject of spiritual pride last week. I saw an example with someone that disturbed me. As a result, I thought a blog series on the subject would be good, for so many people have spiritual pride, right? They need a good dose of spiritual reality, right? Yesterday in church during worship music I bowed my head, listened to the Spirit speaking, and it was confirmed that the subject would be good to write on. What I didn’t expect was what the Spirit of Truth said to me next. He said, “Begin with yourself as an example.”
That’s the problem, isn’t it? If we spot spiritual pride in someone else, don’t we reveal our own spiritual pride in judging it to be in someone else? Do we fail to understand that deep down we most often compare someone we criticize with ourselves and by the way we would do something? We wouldn’t admit it, because spiritual pride will not allow it. But don’t we see ourselves and our ways and our perspective to be the standard that people must compare favorably with, or else they become targets of our criticism. Worst of all, we do it in the name of Jesus, because we are so spiritually discerning. Really?
The Pharisee in the referenced passage kept all the rules, and he was proud of himself because of it. He really felt proud as he looked at the pitiful tax-collector who he knew to be a cheater, a swindler, a sinner, and since this Pharisee knew all things about people who were lesser than himself spiritually he threw in adultery as a likely sin, “For after all, you know those spiritually depraved tax-collectors and their habits?”
Rules aren’t bad. Trying to live right in God’s sight isn’t bad. Being obedient to God’s precepts isn’t bad. Slander is bad. Gossip is bad. Railing judgment against someone else is bad, just because they are different from us. Prejudice (pre-judging) is bad because we don’t know all the facts. But worst of all in God’s sight, spiritual pride is bad. Little wonder why Jesus said,
“I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God.”
I want to be truly justified before God, rather than getting my strokes from people, or my self-appreciating comparisons, don’t you? So how about joining me for a few days as I explore the subject of spiritual pride and let’s figure out what the Lord has to say about it? I do believe it is something that can slip into our life without us even knowing it. When it does slip in, it can become a major stumbling block in our perspective about other people, ourselves, and our ability to pass along that grace God gives to us.