top of page
  • Writer's pictureJenna

Righteous or Sinner?

Updated: Jun 16, 2023

For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Matthew 9:13

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:12-13).

The “righteous” are respectable and moral people in the eyes of the world. They are righteous in their own eyes, but not in the eyes of God. The “sinners” are the outcasts of society who are often judged and looked down upon by the world. Sinners know they are unrighteous, and it's these people whom Jesus comes down to earth to save. It's these people whom Jesus clothes in His perfect righteousness, by grace through faith in Him. While Hell is filled with a lot of moral, righteous people, Heaven is filled with a lot of sinners who are forgiven in Jesus.

Poor in Spirit

Jesus is The Doctor and The Great Healer for those who are sinners. They are the ones who know they are spiritually sick and in need of a cure. They are poor in spirit. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Poor in spirit is the opposite of self-sufficiency. The poor in spirit speaks of those who have humility and recognize their own sinfulness and total dependence on God. Their pride and self-confidence are gone, and they stand empty-handed before God, knowing they are undeserving of eternal life. The poor in spirit know there are no saving resources in themselves. They don't trust in their own self-perceived goodness, personal merit, or good works to save them. Rather, the poor in spirit trust in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ to save them.

Proud in Spirit

The “righteous” are “those who are well” and don’t think they need a doctor. They are proud in spirit. These are the Pharisees who are blind and self-deceived by their own spiritual condition. Jesus doesn't mean that they are truly righteous but that they believe the lie that they are righteous. The Pharisees believe in their own merit and good works to save them. When we take out the irony from Jesus’ statement, it might sound like this, “I haven’t come to call those who believe they are good and who trust in their own good works to save them. I come to call those who know they are sinful and in need of a Savior.”

The Pharisees are hardened in their willful unbelief and spiritually blind to the truth in Jesus. They claim to see, even though they walk in darkness. In Scripture, blindness is symbolic of spiritual darkness. It’s the incapacity to discern or comprehend the Gospel Truth. Although we have the human responsibility to obey God's command to repent and believe in the gospel, only the grace of God can open the eyes of the blind.

Those Who Don't See & Those Who See

Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, "Are we also blind?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains" (John 9:39).

• Those who do not see - This refers to those who know they are sinners and are in spiritual darkness

• Those who see - This refers to those who are the “righteous” and think they are in the light but are in spiritual darkness.

If the Pharisees recognize their own spiritual darkness and cry out to see the Light, they would no longer be guilty of willful unbelief. They would be granted repentance and faith by God’s grace. Unfortunately, they are content in their blindness. Tragically, they think their spiritual darkness is light, and this further hardens their hearts in their rejection of the Messiah, the only One who can save them. They choose themselves instead of Christ.

‘I desire compassion and not sacrifice’ is another statement Jesus says against the Pharisees. They believe they obey the Law perfectly through their vigorous religious rituals, ceremonies, tithing, and sacrifices. However, if they are truly righteous, they would display the fruits of love, kindness, and compassion to the social outcasts of the world. Mere external acts of obedience, while the heart is full of hypocrisy are detestable to the Lord. (Isaiah 1:10-15)

The Truth Changes Us

When doctors help the sick, they must come into close quarters with their patients. They must connect with their patients on a personal level in order to see them, understand them, and be able to heal them. This is also with Jesus when He calls sinners to Himself. It’s His compassion, thoughtful attention, and love that draws Him to come down to where they are and meet them in their place of need. He stoops down into the dirt and mud of the earth to dwell with sinners, listen to them, teach them, and heal them of their condition. (Hebrews 2:9, Phil 2:7).

On the other hand, the Pharisees show their religion by keeping perfectly clean on the outside while their hearts are full of hypocrisy. Jesus says,“Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean (Matthew 23:27). It’s the inside that Jesus wants to clean for us. It's our hearts that Jesus wants to transform. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7).

Jesus tells sinners to come just as we are, but He doesn't intend to leave us that way. Jesus didn't come to affirm us in our sins. Rather, He came to save us from our sins, call us to repentance and faith in Him, renew our minds in the Truth, and transform our hearts to live for the glory of God.

The yoke of pride is hard and the burden of self-sufficiency is heavy. But Jesus says His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30).


For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith Philippians 3: 8-9

"The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, Matthew 11:5

Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

“The question is not, “Do you know you are a sinner?” The question is this, “As you have heard me preach the Gospel, has God so worked in your life that the sin you once loved you now hate?” Paul Washer


bottom of page