For highly religious people like these Jewish Christians, they obeyed what they were good at. So they were good at regular attendance to the temple. They were good at tithing and giving the first fruits. They were good at knowing and memorizing Scripture. They were good at public prayer. They were good at fasting and letting everyone know they were fasting. They were circumcised and they followed strict traditions. They only ate kosher food.
And if they equate a healthy spiritual life with doing these things, then of course, they can have every reason to brag because compared to others, they were super religious. Because other people were their standard, it was easy for them to feel self-righteous and look down on others.
Self-righteousness is the ultimate form of self-delusion. Why? The answer is in Rom 3:10-12.
10As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Self-righteousness is the ultimate form of self-delusion because we are on fantasy island if we think we can make ourselves righteous through what we do. The Bible is clear — there is not a single person who was righteous through his or her own effort, not even one. Self-righteousness is not possible. It is an oxymoron.
When other people are our measuring stick, then we can keep feeding the illusion that we can be righteous through the things we do. But if we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and he becomes our standard, everything changes. And when we compare ourselves to him, there is no room for boasting.
It’s like high school students. I bet some people here were the valedictorians of their schools and had you stayed in that classroom for the rest of your lives, you might think you are one of the world’s smartest people.
But you go to a school like Caltech, or for some of us, UC Berkeley, and that illusion is shattered. You realize, man, I am just pretty average. I am not a genius. It depends on who we measure ourselves against.
Or it’s like a high school player who thinks he is the best basketball player in the world like Kwame Brown and then he has to play against Kobe Bryant and he gets embarrassed.
Compared to others, you may feel like a religious super star, but Jesus is like Kobe Bryant. In every way, Jesus is far more loving, far more compassionate, far more moral — he was completely and utterly sinless, he is far more humble — he washed his disciples feet, he healed the leper and cared for the orphan and the widow, he is far wiser — his teaching had authority, and he is far more powerful — he performed miracles. In every way, we can’t compare to him and if Jesus is our standard, then we will realize that our religious acts are utterly insufficient in comparison.
Who is your standard? If you look to others and only focus on the things you are good at, then there is not much need for Jesus in your life. Let’s not look at other people, let’s not even look to one another in this church. Jesus is the only proper standard. We focus our eyes on Him and Him alone. That’s my prayer for this church. We would look to no one else but Jesus.