Summary: Authenticity is the mark of the person who connects with God.
Title: Impressing People or Connecting with God?
Text: Luke 18:9-14
Thesis: Authenticity is the mark of the person who connects with God.
Our story is found in the context of Jesus¡¦ teaching regarding the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus gives somewhat mixed signals in that in 17:20, he describes the Kingdom of God as presently an invisible Kingdom of the heart. But, he goes on to describe the time and the events when he will return to earth¡K he says the time is coming when people will long to share in the days of the Son of Man but they won¡¦t be able to do so because they missed their opportunity.
Our story emerges from that discussion and speaks to who will be a part of that coming Kingdom¡K a kingdom in which the proud in this life will be humbled and the humble will be honored in the next life. It is a serious text that begs for our attention.
Steve Harvey is a comedian in transition. He is growing. I first enjoyed his humor on the Steve Harvey Show, a sitcom set in a high school where he is Steve Hightower and Cedric the Entertainer, are high school teachers. I enjoyed the sitcom but soon discovered that his stand-up routine left something to be desired in the area of wholesomeness¡K
Recently I saw his latest performance, which he did to honor his mother, at a J.D. Jakes Conference. He confessed that he was weary of the vile nature of his stand-up routine and wanted to do something for which he could be proud. He managed to do an entire routine without swearing. However, that is not to say he has arrived.
At one point in his act he described an encounter with a neighbor in which he said, ¡§I know how I should have reacted, but I ain¡¦t that good a Christian yet.¡¨ If we are honest, most of us would have to confess that we ain¡¦t that good a Christians yet either.
Vulnerability is appreciated by some but by others, no so much. But the fact of the matter is, we are all a lot like Steve Harvey. We are in transition. We are not who we once were but neither are we who we will one day be.
This week, while standing in the checkout like at the grocery store I found myself behind a lady who managed to unpeel every vestige of self-righteousness I had. It seemed to me that her lack of any sense of urgency or consideration of those in line with her was designed to drive me nuts.
That¡¦s when I realized, I ain¡¦t that good a Christian yet! I found myself judging her fairly harshly. I judged her by my high standards of checkout protocol. You have your Sooper Card out for the cashier to swipe before she begins to check you out. You swipe your debit card on the card reader while she is doing the checking. You have your pen in hand ready to sign whatever needs signed when she is finished. You thank her and get out of the way.
¡§Oh, I thank God I am not like other shoppers.¡¨
Our story today is a scathing indictment on the attitudes of spiritual pride and self-righteousness.
I. Pride and judgmentalism are indicators of inauthentic piety.
Two men went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other, a dishonest tax-collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ¡§I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax-collector over there¡K¡¨ Luke 18:10-12
The Pharisee¡¦s piety was based on two things:
A. He valued outward appearances and boasted to God about it.
1. I don¡¦t cheat.
2. I don¡¦t sin.
3. I don¡¦t commit adultery¡K
B. He valued strict religious practices and boasted to God about it.
1. I do fast twice a week.
2. I do tithe a tenth of my income.
The Pharisee in our story is a lot like the little boy who, while visiting with his grandma, pulled a picture of his kindergarten class out of his backpack. He pointed to the faces in the photo one by one and began describing his classmates. ¡§This one is Robert. He hits everyone. This is Stephen. He never listens to the teacher. This one is Mark. He chases us and is very noisy. This is Sally. She always tells on everyone.¡¨ Then pointing to his own picture he commented, ¡§And this is me. I¡¦m just sitting there minding my own business.¡¨
It seems, we learn very early in life to judge ourselves well in light of others.
Our story is also an affirmation of the attitude of spiritual humility.
II. Humility and sadness over one¡¦s sins are indicators of authentic piety.