Now, what do you think of my religion?
(George Everard, "Strong and Free! A Book for Young Men" 1882)
A rich lady once asked a very faithful pastor to call upon her, and when he was seated in her drawing-room, she began to relate to him all her good deeds, and how much she had done for the poor and the suffering. It was a long story, and the catalogue of her virtues and good works was quite overwhelming.
She had such a high opinion of herself, and her ways and doings, that she never doubted but her pastor would think her a very paragon of Christian excellence. So, very confidently she closed up her narration by putting to him the question, "Now, what do you think of my religion?"
She had a reply very blunt and straightforward, and certainly not the one she expected.
"Madam," said he, pointing to his hat on the table, "you have no more religion than that hat!"
Now you may be far from the open, glaring self-righteousness of this lady, but it may be equally true of you, in God's sight, that you have "no more religion than a hat!" Your religion may all turn upon self. There is a secret dependence upon your own character, upon your freedom from vice, upon your moral conduct — that mars whatever is good about you.
"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:10-14