Summary: Who is the object of your prayers? Remember, things aren’t always what they seem.
Do You Need an “I” Exam?
Girolamo Savonarola was one of the great preachers of the fifteenth century. He
preached in the great cathedral of Florence, Italy, which contained a magnificent
marble statue of the virgin Mary. When Savonarola started preaching at this great
cathedral, he noticed one day an elderly woman praying before this statue of Mary.
He then began to notice that it was her habit to come every day and pray before the
Savonarola remarked one day to an elderly priest who had been serving in the
cathedral for many years, "Look how devoted and earnest this woman is. Every day
she comes and offers prayers to the blessed Mother of Jesus. What a marvelous act
of faith." But the elderly priest replied, "Do not be deceived by what you see. Many
years ago when the sculptor needed a model to pose for this statue of the blessed
Mother, he hired a beautiful young woman to sit for him. This devout worshiper you
see here everyday is that young woman. She is worshiping who she used to be."
THINGS AREN’T ALWAYS WHAT THEY SEEM.
As the parable opens we view the Pharisee as the good guy, at least compared to the
tax collector, the perennial “bad guy”. I think that’s about the only way a Pharisee
could be considered a “good guy”. There were many differences between these two.
But the biggest difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector was the object
of their prayer. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself, while the tax
collector sought God. The Pharisee addressed God, but talked about himself. He
loved himself, thought about himself, served himself and even prayed about himself.
How about with us? Is our agenda the most important thing? Do we get bent out of
shape when we don’t get our way? Do we think the world revolves around us?
Maybe the Pharisee was negotiating with God. "’God, I thank you that I am not like
other people - thieves, rogues, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. I fast twice
a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’" He recounted his good deeds "I fast
twice a week" - the Law required only an annual fast - Lev 16:29 "I give a tenth
of all that I possess." - The Law required a tithe only on certain items; this man
gave a tenth on ALL he possessed - Deu 14:22-23 Why did he pray this way?
Maybe he was setting God up. Maybe by reminding God how morally upstanding
he was, the Pharisee could then ask God for something.
We can imagine the Pharisee praying with eloquent words; anyone who heard him
pray would say that he was a spiritual man. The tax collector might pray with
halting phrases; but his prayer was the one pleasing to God
I think what this attitude boils down to is pride. PRIDE. This word has almost
completely lost its sinful meaning in our culture. Pride today in America is looked at
as a virtue. We have slogans like, "Proud to be an American" & “American Made”.
We have parades celebrating Black Pride, Yankee Pride, Gay Pride and you name
it. If we see someone who’s cleanliness or neatness of home isn’t quite up to par we
say, "They need to take a little more pride in themselves." But there can be too
much of a good thing.
Verse 9 says …and looked down on everybody else … This is the natural outcome
of an inflated ego or pride. We spend too much time looking down on others. We
look down on certain groups of people. The criteria could be economic or social. It
could be race or religion. We go to church on Sunday so God surely loves us more.
We live more upright lives than other people. Surely God has taken note of that.
Pride disrupts and destroys relationships. In all of our relationships we will all fail
each other at some point in time. If pride dominates our thinking we won’t admit we
were wrong or attempt to resolve the issue.
Pride makes us spiritually blind to our own sin. Our egos are so inflated that we will
not see our own shortcomings and sin. It’s not that we can’t see them, we won’t. If
we convince ourselves we have no sin we’ll never seek God for forgiveness.
Pride leads to down-nose looking. When pride infects our vision, we start to look to
look down our nose at other people. We ignore their needs, their struggles, mock
their requests; at the same time believing that we’re better than they are. Can’t you
hear the pride in the Pharisee’s prayer: “Thank you that I’m not like…”
Pride leads to empty-word praying. The prayer offered by the Pharisee accomplishes