“Holier than thou”--we are familiar with the expression, aren’t we? The non-church goer certainly is. They use it with contempt to describe the self-righteous who often populate church pews. It is the ugly portrait of one who looks down their sanctimonious nose and points a condemning finger, loudly broadcasting the sins of others, all the while failing to examine their own heart and confess their own sins.
We can understand why some outside the church world would stumble over these attitudes among certain church folk and want nothing to do with Christianity. To them I would sound the warning: don’t let the hypocrite keep you out of heaven—or you’ll be with them forever in hell! Better to go to church with them, than spend eternity with them.
Religious people get all riled up when you speak against homosexuality, condemn pornography and lament our nation’s apostasy with a hearty “Amen!” But they often grow quiet when you preach about self-righteousness, judgmental attitudes and hypocrisy.
That’s tough—I’m going to preach the whole counsel of God. I can’t show favorites—because God doesn’t. “For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). Yes, God is going to judge all humanity, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23)! But God will hold us accountable for the amount of light we have.
Jesus said it would be better for Sodom than Capernaum on Judgment Day! We associate Sodom with gross evil and the wrath of God—and that much is true. What we fail to reckon with is that Sodom had no Bibles, no churches and no preachers—only one believer, Lot, who was a backslider! On the other hand, Capernaum was witness to Christ’s miraculous life and heaven-sent preaching. “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (Matt.11:23).
The citizens of Capernaum were incensed at Christ’s teaching. They clearly possessed the “holier than thou” attitude. Outwardly, you might have compared their conduct with Sodom’s denizens and concluded they could make a good case. But, God doesn’t stop with the external show of religion. He judges accurately according to who we truly are on the inside. Paul writes, “in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel” (Rom.2:16). The skeletons in your closet will come marching out to testify against you.
God has a set of books in heaven where the names are recorded of all those belonging to Christ, plus other books where every thought, word, deed and motive is being documented.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev.20:11-15)
Imagine—if your name is not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life—then the evidence of your crimes against God will be presented in court and sentence will be passed. Self-righteousness will not save you. Paul states that the judgment will be according to “my gospel.” This is the issue. Have you responded to the Gospel in faith—receiving Christ as Lord and Savior? If not, we learn in Romans 1 that you can’t be so bad Christ won’t save you and in Romans 2 that you can’t be so good that you don’t need Him to.