He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat 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 who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” -Luke 18:9–14
The driving force behind self-righteousness is the belief that we are morally superior to someone. Maybe we think that we have sinned less than someone. Maybe we think that our sins are not as bad as someone else’s. “Yeah, sure. I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not…” This self-righteousness leads to pride, the belief that we are better or more important than someone.
The source of pride is not limited to self-righteousness. It can come from worldly success or a skewed understanding of how we measure up to others. The effect of our pride on others, though, is the same across the board. Our pride hurts others. It can make us intolerable (I saw you roll your eyes when you read the Pharisee’s comment about the tax collector), and it pushes us away from God.
Pride is one of my biggest struggles. I often walk into a room and catch myself thinking that I’m the smartest person in the room, or the most holy, or the most put together. I sometimes come to God and say, “You know, I don’t really think I’ve sinned much this week.” He just shakes His head at me because I’ve so often let my pride blind me to the work that He wants to do in my life. When we think we’re the best, we are unwilling to grow, and God is constantly trying to help us grow. It is only after we humble ourselves that He can do the work that He has planned for us. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” I could use a reminder of that every day.
--Josh Young is a Pitt senior and a Cornerstone student leader