John 9:13-15 “They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. ‘He put mud on my eyes,’ the man replied, ‘and I washed, and now I see.’ Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others asked, ‘How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?’ So they were divided.”
The title “Pharisee” was once worn as a badge of honor. For us it’s an insult. Yet each of us knows their sin by experience. Self-righteousness and legalism plague us every day, and there are so many subtleties to these sins. There is the explicit self-righteousness of those who keep their own list of man-made rules with the idea that it gives them a higher level of spirituality. We see it when some Christian considers himself superior because he doesn’t drink alcohol, or play cards, or get married, or eat certain foods. Even in our own churches we are tempted to make rules that regulate every minute detail of congregational life. That is easier than doing the hard work of teaching people to live by Christian principals and confronting them when they fail to do so.
But those are the easy examples to spot. There is also such thing as a “reverse Phariseeism.” I once read of a pastor who was talking about legalism in his Bible class. As an example he mentioned the fact that he attended a Bible college where they strictly enforced rules against beards or mustaches, and no hair could be worn below the ears. Yet everyday the students walked past a hundred year old painting of the college’s founder, with a beard, and mustache, and hair below his ears. While most people in the class laughed, one member pointed out that now they were the ones who were self-righteous–considering themselves better and more spiritual than those “legalistic Pharisees” as they talked behind their backs and laughed at them. It’s one thing to recognize self-righteousness. We become guilty of it when we use someone else’s failing to elevate ourselves.
The problem lies in our hearts. We are sorely tempted to make ourselves–not the Word, not our Savior–the standard by which everyone else should be judged. We fall into a mindset that says, “This church would be a lot better off if everyone else were more like me.” The truth is, the church would be in big trouble if everyone were more like me. The church would be better off if everyone were more like Jesus. That’s something only Jesus can make you see.
The Pharisees’ self-righteousness and legalism made them blind. They couldn’t see the truth. They couldn’t see themselves. They couldn’t see their Savior even when he made a blind man see. Jesus later called them blind guides and blind fools. That is the danger self-righteousness poses. It blinds us when confronted by the Savior.
Every day of our lives we get beat by our sinful nature. But Jesus helps us see when he draws us to look at him, and watch and follow him. Our vision fails when we look away to ourselves, our works, our ways, and our world. But when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus–his perfect life, his suffering on the cross, his payment for sin, his forgiveness–our blindness is gone, our spiritual vision 20/20, and our path through life to heaven clearly lit. That view is bright with God’s love for us. In it we see that his solution for our sin doesn’t include anything we have to do. Jesus has done it all, and that is also something that only he can make you see.