Grace For Healing
God wants you well
filthy rags

Today we look at self-righteousness, or filthy rags as it’s referred to in Scripture. This is part 3 of the series on the healing of the paralysed man lowered through the roof in front of Jesus. 

In a crowded house, no doubt numerous people needed healing. We’re told ‘And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.’ Luke 5:17

 Yet as far as we know, only the paralysed man received. So why was the paralysed man and his friends so different to everyone else that day?

The house was full of religious leaders and Pharisees. In other words, the self-righteous. I believe the Bible suggests that those who have filthy rags, will struggle to receive healing from God. 

We’ll consider 9 characteristics of filthy rags, so you can identify if you have them, then look at ways to allow God to heal our filthy rags which will increase our capacity to receive.

Jesus may have sat with the prostitutes and tax collectors but he condemned the self-righteous, superior Pharisees. I would say he disdained this sin above all others. 

Isaiah 64:6 says ‘All our righteous acts are like filthy rags’. Likewise, the apostle Paul says he considers his good works to be ‘garbage’. 

Even when we do our very best, we can never receive from God based on our own goodness, such mindsets devalue the name of Jesus. 

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.

Romans 10:1-4 

The Bible refers to two different kinds of righteousness. There is self-righteousness, or ‘filthy rags,’ and there is the righteousness of God in Christ. We cannot have both. 

As Christians, God gives us His righteousness as a gift. 




At the Cross, Jesus carried our sin – past, present and future (this includes our filthy rags). In exchange, He gave us His robe of righteousness. 

Our sin deserved punishment, death, rejection, shame, poverty, including the sins we’re yet to commit. In contrast, Jesus’ goodness deserves every blessing. 

Because we wear His robe of righteousness, those blessings are ours. God sees us as righteous as His Son. 

We have life,  forgiveness, acceptance, healing, are approved of, given glory, 


“It takes a supernatural revelation by the Holy Spirit to be able to understand this. But once you do, it’ll transform the way that you view God, the way that you relate to God, and the way that you receive from God” Andrew Wommack




In Luke 18 we read in verse 10 of the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. Outwardly, the publican’s behaviour was no doubt questionable, yet the pharisee’s was perfect.

The Pharisee trusted in his own moral goodness. The publican however, owned his bad behaviour, and trusted in God alone for salvation. 

For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

Behaviour is important, of course, because we want to always glorify God to win souls to Christ, but as far as our relationship with God is concerned, He knows our motives, secret thoughts and the state of our internal landscape. 

God is after heart transformation & not behaviour modification” Joseph Prince. 

The Pharisee had an issue with his Pride. He thought himself more highly than he ought and looked down him nose at someone he considered inferior.


So according to Wommack, when we are self-righteous, or when we operate from our filthy rags, 3 things are impacted:

  • How we view God (and others)
  • The way we relate to God (and others)
  • How we receive from God 

In the new covenant of Grace, right actions are always the fruit and not the root of our right standing with God. I believe that filthy rags are part of our human nature. It’s not part of who we are in Christ. 

Our filthy rags, when they dominate, could hinder our receiving, which would explain why those present in the room didn’t receive healing.

Do your filthy rags dominate you? If you’re not sure if you recognise them, here is a list of characteristics of self-righteousness. 






When we wear our filthy rags, we unconsciously try and earn blessings. I know people who, the minute they become ill, change their behaviour. 

They start attending all the services, giving more money than usual to ministries and serving in the church far more frequently than ever before. 

Cognitively, they want to ‘be right’ with God because they know He is the answer to their health problems, but unconsciously, they are trying to get God to bless them by healing them. 

We live in a world where we’re rewarded for the good we do.

‘If you do well at school you’ll get a certificate… If you eat your greens, you can have ice cream for afters… If you tidy your bedroom, you can have extra pocket money.’ 

Whilst this may be healthy and normal, they are our earthly ways and not to be confused with the goodness of our heavenly Father who ‘justifies the ungodly’

filthy rags
filthy rags

There are ‘Sunday Christians’ who lead morally good lives, want their children to be raised in Sunday school and so on and on some level probably believe that all this qualifies them for heaven.


We can never earn God’s blessings. No amount of our goodness qualifies us for anything. These people fail to understand that the only reason we are healed is because of Jesus. 

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

Rom 10:3

It is His goodness and obedience that qualifies you and I for healing. 




When we’re self-righteous, we don’t know the love of God or trust in His goodness. (Which is why we think we have to earn blessings). 

The 4 friends of the paralysed man knew God loved them. They were eager to get to Jesus – as though Jesus was a magnet of love attracting them. 

The Christian walk is really difficult when you don’t know the love of God. The moment you encounter a challenge, you blame God. 

Or, you conclude that God loves others more than you. You get angry at God for not healing you within your time frame. 

You see God as punishing and distant. 

The people I know who walk away from God, I believe probably never knew his love to begin with. God’s love empowers us to keep on going, to rise above the storm, to keep our eyes fixed. 

Faith works through love. If you don’t know God loves you, you’ll never have the faith needed for your miracle. 

The older brother in the prodigal son story, didn’t know the love of his father. He constantly tried to earn blessings when they were already his. 

Andrew Wommack says that people need a revelation of God’s love, not more faith. See ROOTED IN GOD’S LOVE. STEP 1 IN HEALING




Self-righteous people are superior and judgemental. They have what I would call a ‘Parent Ego’ in counselling talk. 

They think they are right, ‘better than’, and are usually oblivious of their own flaws but very good at recognising the flaws in others.

The Bible talks of removing the log in our own eyes which we often just don’t see.

The Pharisees were judgemental towards Jesus, trying to catch him out and building up ammunition to use against him. They like to point the finger and to accuse. 

They see the world through the lens of ‘should’. Their Life Position says ‘I AM OK. YOU ARE NOT OK’

 Those with this life position don’t take on board the thoughts of those around them and love to voice their opinion because people need to learn from them. 

When our self-righteousness causes us to think far more highly of ourselves than is right, we will struggle to apologise or admit to mistakes, especially to those we see as ‘lesser’, 

If something goes wrong, the self-righteous blame others and usually fail to see how their actions may have contributed to the situation. Superior people love to give orders, they feel it’s their duty to do so. Looking down their nose at people is the norm for them. 

They can be sin-conscious towards others, a bit like the Pharisees trying to find sin in Jesus so they can catch him out and point the finger. 




If you have filthy rags, you probably don’t trust people much. Your opinion of others is usually negative, seeing the worst in people, even being accusative.

If you’re honest, you probably don’t love people much either. The religious rulers and Pharisees had no value or respect for the Son of God. 

The Pharisees were physically present, but they didn’t position themselves to receive in their hearts. They had no honour for the son of God. 

“Every miracle Jesus did was connected to honour” Ps Russell Evans, The Honour Key. 

Delegating is a struggle. ‘If you want something doing well, do it yourself’. This is a mindset of pride. 

I remember my church pastor once saying that trust in the kingdom is given, not earned. (which is a worldly mindset). They run a large church which employs dozens of employees and volunteers.

The only way they can do what they do, is by trusting those around them. 




Self-righteousness causes us to mix law and grace. You believe Jesus died for you on the cross, and now the rest is up to us! This is a form of legalism. 

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” Col 2:6

You may be sin-conscious, analysing your every move for wrongdoing. It bothers you the amount of things in your life that aren’t good enough and you beat yourself up for mistakes that God has completely forgotten about. 

You may even struggle to trust God, thinking that you have to deal with things yourself, rather than rely on God for everything. 

Trusting God (and others) requires surrendering control which makes some of us feel uncomfortable. 

Some legalistic Christians do what the Bible says out of duty. For example, they may tithe money to church because they’ve got to, rather than responding to the love of God by giving Him back what already belongs to Him.

They probably think grace is unfair. 





When you wear filthy rags, you probably have little grace or patience for others. You’re not likely to overlook an offence and will hold onto a grudge.

Your expectations of others are likely to be unrealistic. 

As Christians we elevate Truth, but never at the expense of grace.

We carry each other’s burdens, not just those burdens we think qualify. This means committing to understand others, especially those whose lives are different to our own and to develop empathy. 

If you remember the parable of the Good Samaritan. It was the religious people who were so busy ‘doing church’ so to speak, that they couldn’t help someone in need. Living Scripture and quoting scripture aren’t the same. 

I find the Drama Triangle helpful here.

If you believe you’re right and others are wrong, or that other people’s sins are worse than yours, you are identifying with the persecutor.

You may practice self-justification.

This is the Parent Ego – superior, judgemental, critical….. towards others (or self).

healing pool bethesda




“We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.” President George W Bush

If you are prone to fixing or rescuing people, you are also on the drama triangle, but it is still a form of self-righteousness because you are disempowering others, and looking at them as needing to be saved – by you!

Of course, we mean to help others, but are we seeing others as victims? Therefore placing yourself in a ‘oneupmanship’ position.

Do you relate to victimhood? Yet again another form of self-righteousness. You have taken your identity with Christ out of the equation, wanting others to rescue you and not in a position ( so you think) to stick up for yourself.

You concern yourself with your issues more than with Jesus.




If you’re self-righteous, you are narrow-minded and limited in thinking. These people are filled with Christian cliches and operate from a religious spirit.

You learn things in church and believe them without testing them. Just because your favourite preacher teaches something, doesn’t mean it’s always right.

We listen to the Holy Spirit always. I’m sure you know people who have all sorts of theological type qualifications or have completed Bible college courses, now they think they can minister by following a formula or sticking to a script, rather than the Holy Spirit. 


A few examples:

“You’re not healed because of unforgiveness or sin”

“How can you have depression when you have the Holy Spirit?”

“God is teaching you something in your season of sickness”

“God is waiting for you to sort yourself out before healing you”




If you feel guilty, and are self-critical and self-condemning, then this is probably self-righteousness as well. So whilst you may not judge or criticise others, you divert your thoughts inwards and attack yourself. 


You may have done this your whole life (I know I have). The inner critical, or internal Pharisee as I like to call it, is your personal guide and inner chatter. 

You are being a persecutor to yourself! You probably would never dream of speaking to someone else the way you speak to yourself. 

It’s self-abusive and even verging on self-hatred. Grace and forgiveness towards yourself are in short supply.  I would class this self-righteousness, mainly because we’re not supposed to be ‘self’ anything.

This is caused by shame and creates more shame. 




Self-righteous people are Image conscious, saying and doing what makes them look good, regardless of their relationship with God.

They like to collect role titles in the church and seek recognition from leaders.

Praying long prayers, going to all the prayer meetings, serving in various teams etc, but behind closed doors, spend no time with God whatsoever. 

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Matthew 6:1

Our behaviour is important obviously because we always want to glorify God, but if you’re self-righteous, you’re more concerned about how you look than God. We all want to appear a certain way before man, and sometimes it’s not authentic. 

This is a form of control, operating from fear. We want to control how people see us, then we feel safe in the world. 

I truly believe that whilst we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, our revelation of this is a journey we will continually be on. I suspect we all relate to the above on some level. 

Knowing and receiving the love of God is the first step (also a journey) and from this, everything else will get sorted out as we continue our walk. 

There is a relationship between our actions and our right standing with God, but right relationship with God produces actions, not the other way around.

“Right Living Is a Result of Right Believing” Joseph Prince

The reason our trusting in self is described as ‘filthy rags’ is because we’ve alienated ourselves from Christ. 

You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. Gal 5:4

So if you’re wondering how we start to eliminate our filthy rags in favour of the righteousness given as a gift when we received salvation, then take a read of the next part of this article THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD HEALS US (PT 4)

Have you found this helpful? If so, do take a read of the other parts in the series on the healing of the man lowered through the roof.



In categories: Healing Miracles in the Bible, The Healing Journey