Luke 18:9-14 says, “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; and I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
When we have and/or resemble the attitude of this pompous Pharisee, Jesus is offended by this attitude. Jesus hates when we, as Christians, say or think that in order to be a Christian, one has to look like this, or dress like this, or fit into this kind of box, or not have any of this or that on your body, or vote like this, or act like this in public, etc., etc., etc., etc. Clearly there is a fine line here that we all must walk and walk well. As Christians we must seek to obey God’s Word and yet seek to be willing enough to know the difference between “truth to be obeyed” and “truth to be applied.” When it comes down to it, the Bible does not address all of life, but it does give principles that do apply to all of life. This necessarily means that the Bible allows for some grey to be involved in the Christian life, and that’s ok.
This attitude the Pharisee had, and his so-called righteousness was really unrighteousness. Look back at his prayer. He says “God” once, and then says “I” five times, boasting about how squeaky clean and morally upright he is. This isn’t a prayer, it’s a boast! It seems that to this guy, God ought to be impressed with him. How many of us do this? (Quick hint – all of us)
The harsh reality here for us in this example, is that when we come to God like this, or have these thoughts within us, we don’t find mercy from God, we find judgment.