But We Smell Bad

Story of the Day for Monday February 6, 2012

But We Smell Bad

                      To those who considered themselves righteous and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told a parable . . . 

                                                            Luke 18:9

Whenever I start a new discipline, I often get thoughts about others that are really creepy.

In general, I notice that most people are more health-conscious in their food choices than I am. If, however, I go on a diet, I suddenly notice the indulgent, unrestrained eating habits of others. Have they no self-discipline? If I start attending midweek services in addition to Sunday, I start thinking of those who aren’t there – those unspiritual schlubs plopped in recliners in front of their TVs. But, before I started attending church on Wednesday nights, they just seemed normal.


Thinking this way is kind of sick, isn’t it?  I do it, even though I already know the root cause: self-righteousness.  When our self-righteousness starts acting up, we are trapped between two contradictory impulses.  On the one hand, we think everyone else should be as “spiritual” as we are.  But, on the other hand, we don’t want them to be.  We secretly enjoy the feeling of considering ourselves a notch above the throng.


If you would like to improve your self-righteousness, you can’t go wrong with the Pharisees as role models.  For example, they made their phylacteries wider than yours.  Moses told the faithful to put tassels on the ends of the garments as a sign they were dedicated to a holy God.  The Pharisees made sure that their fringe was longer than your fringe – thus, sending the message that they were more devout than you.


If you really want to be self-righteous, the key is subtlety.  You want to let people know you are spiritual, but you don’t want to make it too obvious.  If you buy a Rolex, for instance, it’s not much good if people don’t notice it, is it? (Come on, you don’t think they make Rolexes just to keep time, do you? This is about status.)  The secret is to casually stretch out your arm so that you can see the time, and they can see your superior status.


There are, of course, a few downsides to becoming self-righteous. Jesus took the Pharisees to task.  He doesn’t think highly of attempting to portray ourselves as more spiritual than others.

It’s not only that Jesus does not like show-offs.  When we become self-righteous, we turn away from God. We send the message to those “beneath” us that they must be like us to be religious. But we smell bad, so they have no desire to try.

But, most of all, we miss out on the mercy of Jesus.  The pride of self-righteousness blinds us to the truth – that the only path to God is through the mercy of Christ.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)