Pharisees Anonymous


The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ?God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.? I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.? (LK 18.11-12)

I’m glad I’m not like that self-righteous Pharisee, so glad I have to pray.

Lord, thank you that I’m a Christian, not an alcoholic or a drug addict.? Thank you that I don?t swear, that I’m not like gays and lesbians or abortionists or those liberal idiots in Washington.? Thank you that I don’t have purple hair and I’m not covered with tattoos and piercings.? I tithe and read my Bible and pray before meals.? I even prayed last week in Ruby Tuesday.

Hey, wait a minute…

I am the Pharisee.

“We are all naturally self-righteous; it is the family disease of all the children of Adam. We secretly flatter ourselves that we are not so bad as some so that we have something to recommend us to God.” — JC Ryle

I am the Pharisee when my teenager sins and I say ?How could you do that??

I am the Pharisee when I believe I’m right and can?t possibly be wrong.

I am the Pharisee when I think ?I hope my wife is listening to this message.?

I am the Pharisee when I judge my fellow Christian thinking, ?I can?t believe he would do that.? I never would.?

I am the Pharisee when I feel disgust for any unbeliever, or fail to pity them in their sin.

Only the blood of Jesus can cure me.? The only antidote for my self-righteousness is Christ’s righteousness, and the only cure for my self-flattery is boasting in the cross.

Join my club, Pharisees Anonymous.? I’m President, but we still need a sergeant-at-arms.


  • Wendy says:

    God has been making me more aware of the anger in my heart lately- not a pretty thing to see. But as I have become more aware of it, I have realized that often when I become angry with someone, it begins with me being self-righteous. “Why did you say that to me? I would never say that to someone!!” “Why aren’t you working as hard as I am?” And these thoughts lead to me being angry because I feel like they are treating me the way I should be treated. – When you say it like that it is so obvious that I am being completely self-righteous!! If I look to the cross and realize that any “righteousness” that I do have is from my Savior who died for me- it helps me remember that I have no “self-righteousness” to look to. Thank you for another helpful post!

  • Hey Wendy,

    Thanks for your insightful comments. Yes, anger and self-righteousness are so deeply entwined. Like you said, it’s my cravings to be treated a certain way that are at the root of much of my anger. And the only way we really deserve to be treated is to be sent to hell for eternity because of our sins, so to be sinned against by others is much less than what we really deserve.

  • Mark D. says:

    You are on a role this week! Your post have been encouraging my heart today, and you have been hitting subjects I really need to hear. Also, you have been revealing your heart in a humble way, and helping me see the areas of sin in my life, encouraging me to respond humbly and in reliance of the Cross. I just want to encourage you, and remind you that God is using you in a big way, and "you are making a difference!" Keep it up!

  • Andy says:

    Very good, yet I have one question. You said,
    “I am the Pharisee when I believe I?m right and can?t possibly be wrong.”
    Can you clarify this?
    I’m sure you would agree that there are certain truths that are undeniable for the Christian. Therefore, in those things that are absolutely without question truth from the bible, we can state that we are “right” and cannot be wrong.
    I agree that we need to be grace-filled in our speech and actions, yet at the same time, we can speak with authority because we have been given the words of life.

  • jason d. says:

    Was just reading this from Calvin’s Institutes:

    …2.2.11. True humility gives God alone the honor

    A saying of Chrysostom’s has always pleased me very much, that the foundation of our philosophy is humility. But that of Augustine pleases me even more: “When a certain rhetorician was asked what was the chief rule in eloquence, he replied, ‘Delivery'; what was the second rule, ‘Delivery'; what was the third rule, ‘Delivery'; so if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third, and always I would answer, ‘Humility.’ ”

    But, as he elsewhere declares, Augustine does not consider it humility when a man, aware that he has some virtues, abstains from pride and arrogance; but when man truly feels that he has no refuge except in humility. “Let no man,” he says, “natter himself; of himself he is Satan. His blessing comes from God alone. For what do you have of your own but sin? Remove from yourself sin which is your own; for righteousness is of God.”…

  • dave says:

    Andy, I hear what you are saying on truth. The question that might arise regards our attitudes.

    We can be right, or truthful, and not come across as haughty, or arrogant.

    In fact humble.

    Maybe this is what Paul spoke of when he taught us to consider others better than ourselves.

    Even the wrong, untruthful, confused person.

    And I’ll readily admit, sometimes I am not good at this.

  • Andy,

    Actually, I didn’t write it very clearly. I wasn’t talking about God’s Word or unchanging Truth such as the Trinity or who Christ is. I meant when I believe I’m right about a decision I’ve made or a perception of someone or that I couldn’t possibly be wrong about what I said yesterday – those kinds of things. Usually my pharisaical attitudes surface in “discussions” with my wife or children. You are right, when speaking God’s truth, we can do it with an arrogant attitude, which I’ve also done. So we need to seek to be gracious even when speaking truth. Thanks for pointing these things out to me.


    Thank you too. Totally agree with you on our need to be humble even when sharing truth, with “even the wrong, untruthful, confused person.” I too need to keep growing in this.

  • Thomas Clay says:

    Sounds like a great idea for a song. Let’s write it! :-)

  • Andy says:

    Thanks, Mark. That’s really what I assumed given the context. I totally agree and I fall short in those areas as well. It seems we stand on the edge of a knife when we hold firm to the unchanging Truths of scripture, yet still maintain a compassionate, humble, and Christ-like demeanor. That tension is one of the things that makes our lives so interesting and joyful and at the same time, frustrating.
    And to Dave, thank you as well, and amen.

  • Hey Thomas,

    I think it would be a smash hit. What would we call it?

  • Thanks again, Andy, and Dave, for clarifying that point. I’m grateful for your comments!

  • Mark,

    I’m grateful the Lord would use our feeble posts to point you to the Cross! Thanks for your encouragement.

  • Ron Reffett says:

    Hey Mark,
    Great post, as always! I would definitely like to sign up for the Sargent of arms position! I can be so self righteous, I find myself being that way, especially with people who aren’t like know perfect! (that is the scent of sarcasm there!)
    Especially with people whose sins are more out in the open. I seem to be able to so easily overlook the lustful thoughts that I entertain or the malicious thoughts that come into my mind when someone wrongs me. I could go on and on but the point remains that I, Ron Reffett am a sinner who desperately needs a savior, praise God for the cross and for the atoning work that Christ accomplished for our sins! past present and future! The cross has indeed said it all!
    Thanks again for another encouraging post for the day!
    Ron Reffett

  • Thomas Clay says:

    “Join My Club”?? :-)

  • Thomas Clay says:

    Or “I’m Not Like Other Men”?

  • Hey Ron,

    The position is still open….You make a great point – our tendency is to cut ourselves so much slack with our own sins, but be so quick to judge others. Good insight. Amen – the cross has said it all! Thanks Ron!

    Hey Thomas,

    I think you should go for it – I think I like “I’m Not Like Other Men” – could probably start with “I’m so vain, I probably think this song is about me…”

  • Robin says:

    Okay, my toes are really hurting, but they definitely needed to be stepped on in this area. Far too often I see other people’s “big sins” and overlook my own “little (hidden) sins.” God has been making me more aware of this lately and I am thankful that He forgives my pride and self righteousness just like He forgives the sins I see in others.

  • I’m right there with you Robin….

  • Derek Ashton says:

    As a recovering Pharisee, I give this post a hearty “amen” and a huge yelping “ouch!” Every time I turn around, I find a new aspect of self-righteousness cropping up in my heart. But I also find that the cross of Christ is directly and potently effective against it. And nothing else has any effect.

  • Amen, Derek – only the cross can cure us recovering Pharisees.

  • Sarah A says:

    Great post. Made me look back on myself.. :)

  • Thanks Sarah! That’s what I want to do.

  • Regina says:

    Last night I was studying legalism and how Christians can fall into it. I thought I had a good understanding…. then I went to work and had a relapse. Today I was checking online to see if my spelling of pharisees anonymous was correct and found this post. Truly awesome. Gives hope :)

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