There’s an old Jewish adage that says something like this: “The truly penitent come nearer unto God than even those who have never stumbled or fallen into sin.” That’s a profound statement when you consider what it’s saying. And while it’s true that we don’t find this particular wording in the Scripture, perhaps we can recognize the principle throughout the Scripture.
First of all, there have never been any who have not fallen into sin. Scripture tells us that “There is no one righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) However, there does seem to be an ample supply of people who delude themselves into thinking that they haven’t sinned. Oftentimes we refer to these people as being “self-righteous.” In the gospels, Yeshua tells us the parable of two men who are praying to God:
“Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)
He taught this particular parable for the sake of those who thought they were righteous and had not fallen into any kind of transgression. Through this parable, we see that those who humble themselves and are truly repentant are nearer unto God than those who appear as if they are not doing anything wrong. The authenticity of those who are pursuing God and trying to obey His instructions is demonstrated by a broken and contrite heart.
As we approach the season of Hanukkah, the season of rededication, the first step toward rededicating our lives to Him is to humble ourselves before Him. We should not be so proud as to refuse to acknowledge our sin and to ask His forgiveness. We must never forget that our Father in heaven looks upon the heart, more so than He does our religious trappings.