To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector 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.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other went home justified (saved) before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
– Luke 18:9-14
Jesus loves sinners. However, he has strong feelings against religious, self-righteous people. The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the nation of Israel, and yet, nearly all of them were blind guides (Matthew 23:16) who were lost. They were full of pride in their religious position as the spiritual leaders of their people. God hates pride (Proverbs 6:16-17). Why? Because it blinds people to their own sin and their need for salvation. Billy Graham said, “Religion is like the vaccine that keeps you from getting the real thing.”
Listen to the prayer of the religious Pharisee: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” This Pharisee saw the speck of sin in others, but was blind to the plank of sin in his own eye (Matthew 7:3-4).
Many religious people believe they deserve to go to heaven because they have tried to live good, decent and moral lives. They attend church regularly. They are upstanding citizens in their communities. They are highly respected. Yet, they refuse to come to Jesus to be saved. Who needs to be saved when you are a good person? Listen to the word of the prophet Isaiah found in Isaiah 64:6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Even the good things we do are often tainted by pride.
Jesus loves sinners, and he came to save sinners. In Luke 5:31 Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” No one goes to see a doctor unless they think they are sick. Until you see the depravity of your sinful heart you will never come to Jesus. I hope and pray this does not describe you.