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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tim Morrison

What Would Jesus Undo - Spiritual Pride

Recap Series Briefly- What Would Jesus Undo- Indifference, Hollow Worship, Hypocrisy- Today- Spiritual Pride- Next Week- Relational Vampires!

When I went into Seminary I was coming off of being a completely straight A student in College. I graduated in the top of my class. So I figured when I got into seminary I would continue to just do what I always did. So when I got my first assignment I did what I always did. I hunkered down and got it done. I didn’t really think much more about it when I turned it in. I am telling you… when that first paper came back it needed a mop to clean up all the red ink on that page. I realized very quickly that I was in a different place that required a different type of educational tactic. Honestly my pride was pretty bruised. But as we all know… Pride comes before a FALL! (Proverbs 16:18- Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.) I believe Jesus would want to Undo our Spiritual Pride.

Spiritual Pride- misplaced sense of worth or value

Luke 18:9-14- Tell Story

9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 

So Jesus Addresses those in the crowd who have a problem:

  • Pride is when we have confidence in/trust in/faith in ourselves

  • Pride causes us to look down on others and affects our relationship with Christ and with others. It causes us within the church to think that we are better than others just because we have a habit of walking in those doors, or dressing a certain way or acting a certain way.

10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 

2 men went up to the temple to pray-

  • They were going to the place that represents God’s presence- they are walking into the visible presence of God.

  • Pharisees were highly respected. They kept 613 laws from leviticus, today they would be like a pastor, or a very respected church leader or elder.

  • Now the Tax Collector was a vilified character. You might thing of them as a gang member or part of the mafia. They were often corrupt politicians who had sold out themselves to the Romans and exploited their own friends and family for their own gain.

We have the good guy and the bad guy. And it doesn't matter if you've never heard this story before, you've heard the story before right? It's Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader. It's Jim and Dwight from The Office, it is Chuck Norris and whatever poor soul Chuck Norris comes up against you're like good guy, bad guy, I know how the story ends.

11 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. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 

Pharisees’ prayer-

  • I follow all the religious rules. I do all the right things! I am good!

  • I am better than everyone around me. I am comparatively good - Thank you God that I am not like these others!

The Pharisee wasn’t completely wrong- he had much to be proud of, but instead of realizing what he had is a gift from God, he saw himself as a gift to God

Spiritual Pride falsely promises

  1. self-sufficiency (I’ve got this)- I don’t need anyone else, have it all together, do right, good person

  2. self-importance (I am valuable)- live in the right neighborhood , host team couldn’t run without me, right label on purse, glue to my lifegroup

  3. self-exaltation (I am better)- Everyone look at me, car has the right badge, tell me I’m great!

We fall into the trap of thinking that my ultimate value is based on my accomplishments, my gifts, my rule following. We compare ourselves to others. That spiritual pride becomes an inward emotion that leads to outward action. Because of our pride we start to treat people as less than us.

We aren’t that different from the Pharisee. We have the same Pride and misplaced value. This causes us to get caught

  • Comparing – it’s easier to lift yourself up when you are pushing someone else down

  • believing I don’t need God- I’m good, better than most other Christians

  • Attention seeking- look at me

So I’ve been in pastoral ministry for 20 years now and I would say most of us don’t struggle with spiritual pride thinking that we are awesome. Rather we are trying to convince God, others, and ourselves that we are OK. It is a pride that actually lives itself out in insecurity.

I’ll call it Reverse Spiritual Pride- and it is sneaky-

  • can’t receive a compliment. Someone says nice shoes! Instead of saying a simple thank you, you have to say… Oh I got them on sale!

  • I could never- lift my hands in worship, or post Bible verses, or serve in leadership. God couldn’t use me, I could never share faith at work.

  • Or for some it is a constant “Woe is me- I deserve better than this.”

  • The thing is … the value is still based on me!

What Would Jesus Undo? Spiritual Pride.


Jesus Shows Us a Different Way-

13 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, the sinner!’

But the tax collector- he is contrasted

  • Standing at a distance- unworthy to enter the temple- you’ve been there, some that was today- You can’t believe you walked in this building and the building is still standing.

  • Couldn’t even lift his head

  • His prayer had confession of his faults and acknowledgement of who God is

  • He did not rationalize or attempt to justify anything- why?- Without God’s intervention, his was hopeless- he comes up short- there was no way to make it right- payback

14 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.”

-Jesus shocks the hearers- the tax collector went home justified, not the Pharisee!

-While the Pharisee was full of spiritual pride, the tax collector emptied himself with a humble heart.

  • Jesus saw the Accurate picture of spiritual condition of their hearts

  • Some of you are right here today, you should be encouraged, you are right were Jesus wants you!


Here is the challenge for spiritual pride. There is no silver bullet. God works at us like Peeling onion- layers. He sees one layer and starts to pull it back and as we allow it, God pulls those layers back until we are exactly who He wants us to be.


No matter how much I act like the Pharisee or think I have it all together, the truth is that we, the Pharisee and the tax collector are no different. We are all standing at a distance unable to look up. But there is Good news- He has done more than I deserve or could ever earn. And Whatever He wants to do in our lives, Spectacular or ordinary, God wants to do something in you before he does something through you! When you empty yourself with a humble heart, you are in the perfect position to be used by God.

  • God has called you. God has equipped you. God will be glorified in what he calls you to do, be that Stay-at-home parent, steelworker, nurse, information technology, sales person, the chef or volunteer.

  • God must work in you before he will work through you!


So as we live this week here is one action step- Ask…. Is this about my glory, or is this about God’s glory?

  • This emotion, fear, pride, insecurity, decision?

  • Every time before I stand up here I think will they like my clothes, will I mess it up? Instead I should be saying God use me as your tool so that others might hear you through the words I speak. May others know your love through me.

  • Matthew 5:16- In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.

  • Pride is about my glory, humility is about God’s glory!

If there are those of you here this morning who God is poking your side this morning and he is saying that it is you I would like to pray with you this morning. Can we go to God in prayer…

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