I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (NIV) — Philippians 3: 8-9
“Oh, God,” someone once actually prayed, “I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.”
Maybe you’ve never actually heard those exact words, but if you’ve been in religious circles long you have felt that sentiment often enough. These words were spoken by the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, the Pharisees (Luke 18:11-12, The Message).
The Pharisees were upright, righteous people. They observed the law, performed their service to God religiously—and loved to talk about it.
They may sound exaggerated to you, but I’ve had my Pharisee moments. Suddenly, things are feeling good with God, I’m on a spiritual pinnacle – and somehow, it’s easy to fall into judging everyone else who doesn’t live by the same standards of holiness by which I live.
Look at another character in the Scriptures by contrast: A tax collector, a pretty unrighteous profession in those days, “stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’” (Luke 18:13).
What did Jesus say about these two? “I tell you that this man [the tax collector], rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
A judgmental spirit is a sure sign of SELF-righteousness, not godly righteousness. Paul counted all the self-righteousness he had earned as “rubbish” – or as another translation puts it more graphically, “dung.”
He urges us to be honest. To admit that we have problems with sin, with our flesh, with our attitudes, and the only righteousness or good that dwells within us comes from Jesus. And the only work that really counts begins with our faith in Him.
The rest is rubbish!
“People wrap themselves up in the flimsy garments of their own righteousness and then complain of the cold.” (unknown)