The Herald Weekly Vol XV : 12

A “Holier-Than-Thou” Christian

Have you come across “holier-than-thou” Christians? We all have. In fact, it is very easy to spot them on the Lord’s Day. “Holier-than-thou” Christians think they are spiritually better than other Christians.

John is a devout Christian. He never misses church. He is well-versed in the Bible. He teaches the Word well. He is also mission-minded and gives generously to missions. No one could match his track record of faithfulness in the church. But sadly, John is found to be a self-righteous, egoistic man. He always relied on “what he had done” as a measurement of how good he is, and that led him to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (Romans 12:3).

Jesus compares such a person who is full of confidence in his own righteousness with the Pharisee going to the temple to pray. The Pharisee boasted in his self-righteousness (Luke 18:9). He had an unrealistic sense of self-worth. He prayed, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11). The use of the five “I” pronouns by him revealed how egoistic he is. Instead of thanking God for what He has done for him, he arrogantly brags to God about his own moral purity and religious piety.

However, the prayer of the tax collector was full of contrition. Because of shame, he would not even dare to lift up his eyes to heaven but beat his breast, which is a sign of sorrow and contrition, and pleaded with God for mercy. Such an attitude God would not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Which of these men went home with God’s approval? Jesus said, “…for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:14; James 4:10; Proverbs 18:12; 15:33; 16:18).

Characteristics of a “Holier-Than-Thou” Christian

Many people turn away from Christianity because of a self-righteous, egoistic attitude some Christians portray. A “holier-than-thou” Christian possesses certain distinct characteristics.

1. A “holier-than-thou” Christian always thinks he is better than others because of his religious beliefs or superior attitude. He likes to compare himself with other Christians, often thinking that he is somewhat more religious, more anointed, more well-versed in the Bible than others. He says to himself, “I am a full-bloomed Calvinist. I know my theology well. I am a widely read person. There is nothing that I do not know.”

2. A “holier-than-thou” Christian always thinks highly of himself (Romans 12:3). He is quick to point out every flaw in others but never really looks at himself as flawed. Because he thinks that he knows more than others, he always speaks condescendingly, arrogantly, sarcastically or harshly to people. He behaves as if he has higher morals than other people. Such a Christian lacks good character and attitude.

3. A “holier-than-thou” Christian is unreasonable. He feels he is always right and everyone else is wrong. Nobody can help him to see the difference because he refuses to listen to anyone since he feels his way is superior over others.

4. A “holier-than-thou” Christian lacks humility. He says to himself, “I am a good example of a Christian. No one can perform his or her holy duties and obligations as often or as well as I do. Moreover, I have a higher understanding of God than him or her.”

5. A “holier-than-thou” Christian lacks compassion. He does not have any sympathy or empathy for people who are weakened by sin. He is not aware that he himself is as afflicted as the weak brother or sister because of his pride.

6. A “holier-than-thou” Christian is at times angry and bitter with life. He always sees things negatively. He can never look at the bright side of things. He is usually pessimistic. Things are always wrong to him. He seems to always pronounce judgment on things that don’t agree with him.

7. A “holier-than-thou” Christian likes to falsely accuse people who do not agree with him. He will not take the trouble to check the facts or give the person who disagrees with him the benefits of the doubt. He would rather believe lies about a person he is in conflict.

8. A “holier-than-thou” Christian is a religious supremacist. He has the attitude that his denomination is the only true one on earth. He is proud of it. He is a sectarian (Mark 9:38-40).

9. A “holier-than-thou” Christian is dogmatic and intolerant. He is a militant Christian. He does no entertain other theological view on non-essential issues of the Bible. He strongly believes what he believes is the only view and there are no other acceptable views.

The term “holier-than-thou” is not only used to talk about religion or a person’s degree of piousness. It also implies much more today. For example, exhibiting an attitude of superior virtue or self-righteous piety. The term is used derisively or mockingly against someone who is overly self-important or thinks of himself as great for some personal reason, like having a string of degrees, a lot of wealth, a company of VIP friends or something that makes them feel great.

A “holier-than-thou” attitude drives people away. How can I know that I have a holier than thou attitude? How can I fortify myself against a “holier-than-thou” attitude? A holier-than-thou” attitude can be seen in the way we share, the way we testify for God and the way we talk to people. Therefore, you and I need to pay close attention to how we share, testify and talk to people lest we fall into a self-righteous, holier than thou attitude. That’s not what genuine Christianity is all about! Amen.

Rev. Colin Wong
Adapted from Life B-P Church Weekly

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