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Avoiding Self-Righteousness

"What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people's faces. You won't go in yourselves, and you don't let others enter either." -Matthew 23:13

Have you ever been around someone who seemed to exude self-righteousness? Often it's difficult to respect or get on the same page with someone with that kind of posture because it's hard to relate. Jesus tells an interesting story about this using the example of a Pharisee and a tax collector:

"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 a sinner like everyone else. For I don't cheat, I don't sin, and I don't commit adultery. 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 18:10)

The truth is, we all fall short, even if we think we're doing everything right. How do we respond to those who we feel are at a different level of faith that we are? Do we look down on them; do we reject them? Or are we humble and gracious, like Jesus was with the tax collectors and prostitutes?

There is a fine line between being holy before God and becoming self-righteous. Jesus warned of the dangers of looking to our own actions for our salvation. The key is always looking to Him for redemption and remaining humble. The grace that Jesus gives us is the key to resolving our shortcomings in life.

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