Some lessons on the dangers of self-righteousness from Jesus himself. In Matt 21:28-32 Jesus gives a parable of two sons. In the parable, the father gives instructions to his two sons. One of them said no, but did follow instructions anyway, and the other said yes but disobeyed. Jesus asked the Pharisees which one obeyed his father they replied the first one. In verses 31-32, Jesus said that is correct and explained the meaning: (NLT) “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John, the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.”
The first son said no but did the task anyway, this represents the prostitutes and tax collectors, because they rebelled against God’s laws at first, but then they submitted and repented. The second son said yes but didn’t do his task. The religious hypocrites pretend they perfectly keep God’s commands, but they sin in secret and pretend they are better than others in public by saying yes to God publicly.
This is echoed in the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14. In the parable, a tax collector and Pharisee are praying at the temple. The Pharisee uses his prayer to brag about all the sins he doesn’t commit and then points out and puts down the tax collector. Then he brags about how he gives tithes and offerings. Meanwhile, the tax collector is so ashamed that he keeps his distance and keeps his head bowed in humility. He prayed by asking God for mercy. Jesus confirms that the repentant tax collector is forgiven because of his humility and honesty, meanwhile, the Pharisee is wrong. He ends by saying, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” This phrase is repeated multiple times throughout the gospels (Matt 23:12, Luke 14:11).