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The Self-Righteous Holy Man

There is not a righteous man on earth who does

what is right and never sins.

—Ecclesiastes 7:20


Solomon states a hard truth: all men sin, including the best and brightest among us. No one is exempt, and to argue otherwise is to deny the reality of biblical revelation. Yet we persist in the blindness of our own pride by proclaiming our own righteousness to anyone who is foolish enough to listen.

Jesus tells the parable of the holy man and the tax collector. Whereas the tax collector simply prays, “God, have mercy on me a sinner,” the holy man looks down his imperious nose and declares: “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” (Luke 18:10–13).


The holy man is not righteous in the eyes of God, but self-righteous. He is denying the reality of sin in his own life yet sees sin in others. Jesus always sees the difference and says so to His disciples: “I tell you that this man [the tax collector] went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).


—Eric Kampmann, Signposts

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