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False Righteousness

“But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Come and stand here.’ And he rose and stood there” (Luke 6:8).

When God created the first people, He gave them only one prohibition: to not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden in which He had placed them. They broke this one rule, though, and because of that, all people are separated from God.

The rest of the Bible is filled with examples of people attempting to make their way back to God. One main strategy shines through: adhering strictly to a specific set of rules in hopes that this righteousness will somehow earn God’s favor and appease His anger.

This was the mindset of the Pharisees, Jewish religious leaders who came to power in the years between the return from Babylonian exile and Jesus’ ministry. They dedicated their lives to teaching the Law of Moses. They also added their own regulations, imposing on the people burdens that no one could be expected to keep.

Enter Jesus, the Son of God and the very one who had given the law to Moses in the first place. He knew the hearts of the Pharisees and saw that they were as far from God as the sinners they so loved to berate. Their zeal for their own rules had blinded them to the reason for the law. It existed to show them that they had to depend on God for their righteousness, not their own good works!

To illustrate this, Jesus loved to do things He knew would infuriate the Pharisees. They were especially fond of their rules prohibiting work on the Sabbath, so often, Jesus would heal someone on the Sabbath in front of them. When they accused Him of breaking the law, He asked if it was unlawful to do good on the Sabbath. He challenged them to rethink their beliefs, asking who exactly they were serving: the law, or the God who had given the law?

Worship of our own righteousness is just another form of idolatry.

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