The Danger of Self-Righteousness.
Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32
Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” – Luke 5:31 NLT
Jesus never was one to mince words. Especially when it came to His views about the religious leaders of His day. At times, He could be brutally blunt and painfully honest. Not out of meanness, but because He wished to expose the hypocrisy and dangerous precedence they were setting for the people. They represented everything that was wrong with religious and the pursuit of a relationship with God in His day. They were prideful, arrogant, self-centered, and amazingly self-righteous. In other words, they had convinced themselves that their own efforts were their ticket to a right relationship with God. They had earned favor with Him by keeping all the rules. But what they had failed to understand was that God’s standard of measurement was not based on human effort, but the condition of the heart. And theirs were wicked.
You see time after time in the Gospels where these men confronted Jesus about His actions. They condemned Him for His words and railed on Him for His propensity to associate with those whom they considered unworthy, unclean, and unrighteous. They had established themselves as the gold standard and nobody else could measure up. They despised the common people as spiritually and morally worthless. They saw people like Matthew, a tax collector, as no better than a common prostitute. They looked down their noses at those who they considered second-class citizens from a spiritual perspective. When they saw Jesus having dinner with Matthew and his fellow tax collectors, they “complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?'” (Luke 5:30 NLT). In their minds, it made no sense for the “righteous” to associate with the “unrighteous.” Obviously, Jesus was not of their caliber, because He didn’t have the spiritual astuteness to know a sinner when He saw one.
But Jesus’ response to them is simple, yet profound. He calmly says, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinful and need to repent” (Luke 5:31 NLT). In those few words, Jesus paints a vivid picture of their problem. He also clarifies the biggest difference between His view of how to attain righteousness and theirs. Their problem was that they refused to acknowledge their own sin. They saw themselves as already righteous and in no need of a “doctor.” They had no need of a Savior, because they were saving themselves. Theirs was a self-manufactured form of righteousness. As you read the Gospels, you can’t help but notice that the common people, especially those who were social outcast because of their lifestyles, moral choices, or health issues, were the ones who seemed to flock to Jesus. Why? Because they knew their need and understood their helplessness of hopelessness. They knew they were sinners and didn’t know what to do about it. The morally corrupt could no more save themselves than the lame, blind, deaf and dumb could heal themselves. So they flocked to Jesus. And many of them believed in Him. But the Pharisees, mired in their self-righteousness, couldn’t bring themselves to admit their own need. They refused to acknowledge their sin and confess their need for a Savior. And that sense of religious pride and self-righteousness still exists today. Even among Christ-followers. We can easily measure our worth based on our own self-effort. We can convince ourselves that we are somehow pleasing to God because of all that we do for God. We work hard at fixing ourselves through self-effort and behavior modification, failing to realize that our problem is beyond our capacity to remedy. We have a heart condition that can only be healed by Jesus.
The real point of Jesus’ message in this passage is that He came to call those who KNOW they are sinners and who know they NEED to repent. They know they need to change, but they don’t know how. So they turn to Jesus. They abandon self-effort and any attempts at self-righteousness and place their hope in Him. And He does for them what they could never have done for themselves. He supplies them with a righteousness that is not of their own making, but His. He takes their sin and replaces it with His righteousness. But it all begins with an awareness of need, an acknowledgement that you’re sick and need healing.
Father, self-righteousness can creep up so easily in my life. I find myself trying to earn favor with You on a regular basis. I also find it easy to think that I am better than I am based on some self-established standard of conduct. Never let me lose sight of my own susceptibility to sin and my daily need for the Savior. Without Him, my spiritual immune system is an easy target for the sin that so easily infects this world. But thank You that Your Son came to heal the sick like me. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men