Summary: A sermon for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost Proper 25 Parable about the Pharisee and tax collector
21st Sunday after Pentecost
"Pride, Humility, Forgiveness
9* ¶ He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others:
10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11* The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ’God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’
13* But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ’God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
14* I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
A pastor wrote:
There were seven or eight of us men sitting at the round table for the luncheon meeting in the hotel ball room.
The conversation got around to religion. One of the men whom I had never met before was ecstatic about the congregation to which he belonged.
He went on to enthuse that his church now numbered some 3,000 members even though it was only ten years old.
He said that the building being used at present was worth over one and a half million dollars and that it was debt free. During the ten years, he explained, they had had two finance campaigns and were able to stay out of debt, even with their magnificent building. Attendance filled the church each week. He indicated that he was sure that the church was open twenty-four hours a day with a ceaseless round of activities that were planned for everyone.
The entire tone of his enthusiasm made it very clear that he was, in effect, thanking God that he and his church were not as so many other churches are: small, struggling, poor and in debt.
The true meaning of his boasting became evident when another man sitting at the table, also a stranger, asked, "Well, with all that activity going on there, do you know what you believe?"
Our friend hesitated, was a bit embarrassed, and then said honestly, "To tell you the truth, I am never sure what I believe."
The questioner pressed the issue: "Well, if you did not have all that activity going on, what would you be doing?"
And the reply was, "I have no idea, I never thought about it."
Obviously the man was interested in the statistics of his congregation, not its faithfulness. He was boasting, not confessing.
Our gospel lesson this morning concerns this very fact, confessing verses boasting.
The Pharisee came into the temple to boast. God, look at me and how great I am. I am not like other men, I tithe to my church, I have never even looked at another woman, I am as good as I can be.
He boasted about how great he thought of himself in the eyes of God.
This man was not evil, but he was filled with self pride. and as that old saying goes, Pride cometh before the fall.
Some Christians are like that Pharisee. They can only see what is good in their lives and then project that onto others who do not measure up. They say look at me, I must be blessed by God, for I have health, wealth and prosperity.
And they look around at others like the Pharisee did and say I am glad I am not like them. What is wrong with them any way. Aren’t they faithful enough? Do they pray enough? Why aren’t they blessed by God like me so they can be healthy, wealthily and wise?
And then there was the Publican. He could not even dare to enter the door of the temple let alone raise his eyes to God. And all he could do was “beat his breast, saying, ’God, be merciful to me a sinner!’”
He looked at himself and knew in his own heart that he was a sinner and needed the forgiveness of God.
The difference between the Pharisee and the Publican is that the first looked at everybody else except himself, while the second dared to look only inwardly at his own soul.
A little girl comes into the kitchen from playing out in the sandbox, where she has been making mud pies. Spattered and stained by her play, she causes her busy mother to exclaim, "Oh, Suzie, just look at yourself!"
Oh you fill in the blank just look at yourself. Yes look at yourself and what do you see? Do you see someone who thinks as the Pharisee did? Someone who thinks that you can gain salvation by your own merits and devices?