Self Righteousness A Hindrance To True Worship


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 every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. ( Luke 18:9-14 )


Self-righteousness is a hindrance that affects true worship of God. In this parable Jesus shows us a Pharisee who has gone to worship at the temple. Now I want you to take note that the objective of the Pharisee when he went to the temple was to worship/pray. However when the Pharisee gets to the temple he strays from his objective because of self-righteousness.



Selfrighteousness (also called sanctimoniousness, and holier-than-thou attitudes) is a feeling or display of (usually smug) moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person.

A self-righteous person acts superior to his peers because he believes his moral standards are perfect. This “moral smugness” is condescending by nature and is usually found offensive by others.

So this Pharisee starts showing off to God, meticulously explaining why he is better than other men. But hey wait a minute, I thought the objective was to worship God. That is the problem of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is in effect worship of self, it’s a mockery of the cross and the grace of God. LET ME BE CLEAR, BY OUR WORKS THE ONLY THING WE DESERVE FROM GOD IS DEATH. It’s a shame that this Pharisee did not understand that:

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. (Ephesians 2:8-9 )


The Pharisee however thought that his fasting and tithing where what justified him to come before the presence of God. He was way off the mark. He thought he was worshiping God but all he was doing was boasting to God of how good he was. But we know that Isaiah says our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). In being self-righteous we fail to submit to God’s righteousness as Paul indicates in Romans 10:3

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.


The second problem of self-righteousness is in despising others. In this parable Jesus explains how the Pharisee compares himself with the publican who is also in the temple at the same time. Today self-righteousness can exhibit itself in the person who looks next to the tattooed person in church raising their hands during worship and starts asking what right that person has to be in the presence of God. Well because in that persons mind they are better and deserve to worship God because they have never got a tattoo in their life. But hello have you not forgotten that the reason you went to church was so you could worship and not to look at the next person and deride them for what you think is wrong with them.

Self-righteousness can exhibit itself when we get so wrapped up in our own opinions that we begin to think we are better than others, that ours is the right way, even in insignificant matters. It exhibits itself in a person who thinks that because they have been doing something for x number of years then there is nothing you can tell them or teach them. There is such an account in John 7: 32-53

The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me.Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come. Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?  In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? So there was a division among the people because of him.  And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. And every man went unto his own house.


The problem in the above passage is that the Pharisees thought their position was the only correct and since Jesus was speaking contrary to what they taught then he was in error. A self-righteous person always thinks that they are right, gets angry if anyone questions their way of doing things. Even after the Pharisees sent people to arrest Jesus who came back convicted by the way he spoke for they had never heard anyone speak like that before, the Pharisees derided these people as fools for they said: ‘Have any of us believed in him’   That’s self-righteousness right there. If I don’t believe what anyone says then it means they should be wrong! And that self-righteous attitude made the Pharisees miss God, they missed an opportunity to submit and worship the king of kings!

Another indicator is a questioning of the actions of others and the lack of compassion and mercy. Also shown in constantly looking out for the faults of others.

      And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. ( Mathew 9:10-13 )


At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. ( Mathew 12:1-7 )


So here was the issue: Why was Jesus associating with sinners. How foolish that is for them to forget that they were sinners themselves. Self-righteousness blinds you to the depravity that you yourself suffer from. In the second passage Jesus disciples were hungry but the Pharisees could not see that. All they could see were people breaking the Sabbath. They lacked compassion and Jesus said if you knew what it means for God to say he desireth mercy

I believe all of us should beware of self-righteousness, it’s a plague, it hinders us from truly worshiping God and we go home without having received from God’s fullness because of being so full of ourselves.

Self righteousness