Trusting In Your Righteousness? 


Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise 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, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 18:10-14)


Two comments from THE SAYINGS OF THE DESERT FATHERS (pp 58, 255) related to the Gospel lesson about those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.” The lesson is proclaimed in the Orthodox Church in the weeks before Great Lent begins to remind the Orthodox to humble themselves and not think of themselves as superior to other Christians because they keep a strict fast. True righteousness does not lead to condemning others, but rather to praying for them that they too might be saved. Otherwise, our spirituality is that of the condemned Pharisee rather than that of the justified Publican.


The same old man said, ‘The Canaanite woman cries out, and she is heard; (Matthew 15) the woman with the issue of blood is silent, but she is called blessed; (Luke 8) the pharisee speaks, and he is condemned; (Matthew 9) the publican does not open his mouth, and he is heard.’ (Luke 18)  (Epiphanius of Cyprus)

Abba Sarmatas said, ‘I prefer a sinful man who knows he has sinned and repents, to a man who has not sinned and considers himself to be righteous.’


We are not saved by our own righteousness.  We cannot earn our way into the Kingdom. We need God’s mercies just as all the other people on earth. We are saved by the righteousness and faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.