Summary: What is the appropriate attitude toward our faith? How we live and what we do reflects who we really are.
Luke 18: 9 – 14 / Two Praying Men
Intro: The young minister often boasted in public that all the time he needed to prepare his Sunday sermon was the few minutes it took him to walk to the church from the parsonage next door. After a few weeks of hearing his sermons, the congregation bought a new parsonage - five miles away! Obviously, the young pastor has a higher regard for his sermons than the congregation.
I. Can we agree that things are not always as they seem? Such seems to be the case in this passage.
A. Jesus allows us to overhear the prayers of 2 men (VS. 11 & 13) To hear this parable as simply a warning against pride, self-sufficiency, or a relationship with God based on one’s own works is to miss the other side of the parable.
B. The Pharisee and the Tax Collector described themselves well and neither of them lied. But, their vision was clouded by what they thought they saw.
C. Girolamo Savonarola was a great preacher in the 15th century. He preached in a great cathedral in Florence, Italy. One day he noticed an elderly woman praying before the magnificent marble statue of the virgin Mary. He noticed that she did this every day. One day he remarked to an elderly priest about the woman’s act of faith. “Do not be deceived. Many years ago when the sculptor needed a model for the statue, he hired a beautiful young woman. This devout worshiper you see is that young woman. She is worshiping who she used to be.” (Do You Need An “I” Exam? By John Beehler, SermonCentral.com)
II. Our perception of the Pharisee in this parable is colored by our knowledge that they usually stood in opposition to Jesus.
A. At the time of Jesus Pharisees were wealthy people of prestigious positions. They were not seen as bad people.
B. VS. 11 & 12 – 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.”
C. Pointing finger at others results in three fingers being pointed back at yourself. --- fat people in the mall. “At least I’m not that fat!” The Pharisee had enough religion to be virtuous but not enough to be humble.
III. For the tax collector to be the example of piety in this parable would challenge everything the people of Jesus’ day knew.
A. Tax collectors were considered traitors because they worked for the hated Romans. They often cheated people charging a huge profit margin on top of the taxes because that is how they made their living.
B. VS. 13 – But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heave, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
C. For Jesus to say that this man rather than the Pharisee was justified went against everything society accepted. Who are the “tax collectors” in our lives? To whom do we compare ourselves saying, “Thank God, I’m not like that person.
Conclusion: A proud lawyer asked a farmer: “Why don’t you hold your head up in the world?” The wise farmer answered, “ Do you see that field of wheat? Only the heads of wheat that are empty stand upright. The well-filled ones bow low.” (Do You Need an “I” Exam, by John Beehler, SermonCentral.com)
God, have mercy on me, a sinner.