And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican! I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon 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 that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted! (Luke 18:9-14)
The most righteous person there at the Temple that day was not the very holier-than-thou, self-righteous, hypocritical Scribe and Pharisee who kept the jot and the tittle of the law, who even when he went to pick mint and anise out of his garden, would pluck off ten percent to make sure that he tithed properly and all that sort of thing. (Matthew 23:23) But Jesus had to tell His disciples, "This seemingly righteous Pharisee is not the most righteous!--But the more righteous of the two is this poor publican and sinner!"--A tax collector, who to the Jews was the worst kind of a character they could possibly imagine! They were usually extortionists, cheaters and robbers of the poor!--Franchised tax collectors for the Romans, considered traitors to their brethren! The Romans would tell'm how much taxes they needed and how much people had to pay Caesar, and then they could charge whatever they wanted to more than that for their OWN income. So they were hated by their Jewish brethren, considered the scum of the Earth!
So here was this poor tax collector in the Temple praying, "Lord, be merciful unto me, a sinner!" And what did Jesus say to these Jewish followers of His? "Which one do you think is the most righteous?--It's this poor tax collector who knows he's a sinner and is asking for forgiveness!"
In the sight of God there is no worse pride than self-righteous religious pride!--The self-righteous, Pharisaical, proud, religious person who "thanks God he's not as other men" or as other women, and looks down on them because they don't have as much faith as HE has, and they don't do this or they don't do that!--Those self-righteous proud hypocrites who are so proud of their own success and righteousness and look down on the other guys! They are the most hard and intolerant people that you could possibly run into! They have no MERCY, no compassion, no sympathy for the poor guys who really haven't got it, can't make it, etc.
Such self-righteous hypocrisy so infuriated Jesus that He publicly blasted them, "WOE unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, but have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy, and faith!--These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone! Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel!" (Matthew 23:23,24)
Self-righteousness IS pride and pride IS self-righteousness!--Thinking that you are more righteous than God! If you're proud of your OWN righteousness, then you're rebelling against GOD'S righteousness, because you're saying you're more righteous than God, so you're rebelling against God!--And that is nothing but pure pride! The legalistic, Pharisaical Jews had--and still have--a great problem along this line, of whom Paul wrote, "For they being ignorant of GOD'S righteousness, and going about to establish their OWN righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of GOD!" (Romans 10:3)
This is the greatest and worst of all sins!--Hypocrisy and self-righteousness, that holier-than-thou attitude, that self-goodness. God hates this worse than anything because there is NO goodness except GOD! (Matthew 19:17) God is the ONLY One Who is good, and He hates for people to pretend they are good, because God knows they're ALL bad! (Romans 3:23)
Everybody's bad except those who have faith and have the goodness of GOD, the love of GOD and the righteousness of GOD! God's Word says that all other righteousness, Man's righteousness, your own righteousness, your own goodness, is like filthy, sickening menstruous RAGS! "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags!" (Isa.64:6)--In other words, God says if you don't have HIS goodness, which is true goodness, true holiness, real love, real mercy, you have nothing, even WORSE than nothing!--You're a filthy rag!
When I looked up the Hebrew word "ayd," which is translated "filthy" in our King James version of the Bible, I found that it literally means "soiled or filthy from the menstrual flux"! In other words, God's Word literally says that YOUR righteousness, YOUR goodness, is like filthy, menstruous rags!--Like a woman's used Kotex!--That's how God looks on the so-called "good" people, the people who pride themselves in being better than others: "I'm good, I'm better than you, I don't do this, I don't do that!" Man's own righteousness, self-righteousness, Man's own self-goodness, in the nostrils of God stinks like a woman's Kotex! That's how bad He made it sound!
So who were really the filthiest sinners of all in Jesus' time?--The poor filthy publicans and "bad" people who prayed, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!"--Or the hypocritical Pharisaical religious systemites who said, "We don't need cleaning up!"--And crucified Him for exposing their well-covered filth!--They were the filthiest of all!--And the same is true TODAY!--The WORST filth in God's eyes is that God-damned self-righteousness and hypocrisy!
Jesus told the Scribes and the Pharisees that they were worse than the drunks and the harlots and the publicans and the sinners that they despised, and that there was more chance for sinners to get saved than for these self-righteous hypocrites who not only wouldn't confess their sins, but couldn't even SEE their sins! They couldn't even see that there was something seriously wrong with them, didn't even recognise it! They had resisted the Truth for so long and so hardened their hearts against the voice of God, that they were absolutely pitifully "darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God!" (Ephesians 4:18,19)
He told them to their faces, "Verily I say unto you, the Publicans and the harlots will go into the Kingdom of God before you!" (Matthew 21:31) And He told His disciples, "For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven!" (Matthew 5:20)--In other words, unless you're better than THEY are, you'll never get to Heaven! And the only way you can be better than they is to have CHRIST'S righteousness. Because they were as good as you could get in the natural without the help of the Lord, which was pretty bad!
Such self-righteousness is nothing but a pretence, pretending to be so righteous and right all the time. Jesus so hated this pretence, this hypocrisy, He publicly told them, "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess! Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also! Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness! Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity!" (Matthew 23:25-28)
Why were the Scribes and the Pharisees so self-righteous and hypocritical?--Because they were so proud that they didn't want to confess that they were sinners like everyone else, that there was anything wrong with them. They never admitted and recognised it, so they became "blind leaders of the blind" and they all fell into the ditch, and they committed the sin that couldn't be forgiven, and that was the sin of self-righteousness and rejection of Jesus Christ, their only hope of Salvation! (Matthew 15:14)
It almost makes you feel better to know you're bad, to admit you're not good. After all, God said so, nobody's good! That's why the worst kind of people in the sight of God are the self-righteous hypocrites who pretend to be good and look down on everybody else!
"There is none righteous, no, not one!" "For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of WORKS lest any man should boast!" (Romans 3:10; Ephesians 2:8,9) This principle is true of everything! So we just need to give up on trying to be good ourselves and admit, "I'm just not good, I'm bad, I'm a sinner, of course I make mistakes!" (Continued in part II: Real Righteousness )