Matthew 7:1-5, Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 15:11-32, Luke 18:9-14, Romans 2:1-11, Romans 3:9-23
I like to think of myself as forgiving and gracious, and I even try to be humble. This illusion is easy to keep up if I don’t look too closely at my heart. Somewhere in there, I’ve been keeping a little list of names, offenses, follies, and notes about the people I would rather avoid, shouldn’t trust, or frown upon. How could he act that way? How could she say those words and strut about with that attitude?
Whenever I stop, reconsider, pray, and open Scripture, however, I find that once again I’ve got a log in my eye. My own eyes don’t see clearly. My own heart doesn’t judge rightly.
I am reminded of an anecdote about G.K Chesterton. According to the story, The Times of London posed the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” asking various reputable authors to provide essays in response. Chesterton’s was brief: “I am.”
Such a confession is fitting for all of us. Though I may be inclined to judge others more harshly, I am guilty too. If the Apostle Paul can call himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), then what should be my confession? How often have I arrogantly received God’s blessings as if they were merited by my own hard work, creativity, ingenuity, or integrity? How often have I fallen into sin and didn’t even notice? I bear the name of Christ, but in what ways do I live like the world?
Christ’s words are a thunderous rebuke: “with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2). Paul echoes, “Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment?” (Romans 2:3).
What can we say to this? No one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). In the face of God’s righteousness, I have no answer in myself. I lay my hand on my mouth (Job 40:4). The moment we start counting our righteousness, we are attempting to gain merit by means of the law. But this law rightly condemns us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). For this reason, the highest mark of the Christian walk is not personal righteousness, but repentance. Therefore, my heart should be open not only for the prodigal, but also for his self-righteous elder brother.
We have all presumed on the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience. But God gives grace that we may see our own blindness, that we may walk in His merits, and that we may show mercy even as we have received mercy. God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
God has had mercy on my Pharisee heart, and has granted to me the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. If I understand this rightly, my heart will be truly humbled, not hypocritical. The result will be a gratitude that bears the fruit of Christ-likeness, and an openness to loving the self-righteous, even as Christ has loved me.
Written By Caleb Faires