In Luke 18, Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Jesus told this story to an audience “who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else” (v. 9, NLT).
It’s a simple tale of two men who went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector, and their prayers couldn’t have been any more different. But as miles apart as these men were, they shared one thing in common: They both wanted to please God.
It can be easy to read the Pharisee’s prayer and laugh at the absurdity of it. But this Pharisee was devoted to God. He was genuinely trying to honor God through his pursuit of personal holiness. But somewhere along the line, his view of God became distorted. And when we lose perspective of who God is, it’s easy for self-righteousness to kick in.
Let’s look at three ways the Pharisee’s desire for personal holiness morphed into self-righteousness.