Summary: To be sorry means "I am filled with sorrow." What can the Pharisee and the Tax Collector teach us about the value of being "filled with sorrow" before our God?
A woman told about a conversation that she’d had with her 4-year-old son after they’d gotten out of their Bible Studies one night. She said: “My son and I were WALKING to our car, and he said to me, ‘Mom, I’m not going to sin anymore.’” I got to wondering this, so I asked him why he said that, and this was his answer: “Jesus said if you don’t sin, you can throw the first stone and I want to throw the 1st stone.” (List Member Dannette from Ohio)
Our word for today is “SORRY.”
It used to be that - in our culture – if an actor/ politician/ public figure said or did something they shouldn’t have said or done AND, if they stood in front of a camera and admitted to the world they were wrong; Americans would often be willing to give them a pass and forgive them. I mean: just say you’re sorry! That’s all that most people would want to hear.
But that’s changed over the last few years. We’ve now entered the era where people throw stones… a lot! It’s called “the cancel culture” and it dominates social media and internet. If a comedian/ actor/ politician has said or done something that’s offensive - EVEN if happened 30 years in the past - there is NO forgiveness given. EVER!
No matter how many times someone says “I’m sorry” - these critics will NEVER forgive.
Commenting on this… an agnostic by the name of Andrew Sullivan observed that the Cancel Culture “filled the void that Christianity once owned, without any of the wisdom and culture and restraint that Christianity once provided.’ (Andrew Sullivan, “Andrew Sullivan: America’s New Religions,” Intelligencer, December 7, 2018, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/andrew-sullivan-americas-new-religions.html.)
Another man noted that The ONLINE shame culture is “Christianity with all of the forgiveness sucked out.”
(David Zahl, director of Mockingbird Ministries, Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do About It (Fortress Press, 2019), 76))
Cancel Culture people want to stand in judgment of others… and they will NEVER forgive another’s fault.
In our text today, we read about a man that was like that. He would have felt totally at home in our present “Cancel Culture.” This man was a Pharisee, and he was … a stone thrower.
Jesus told this parable about him: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ Luke 18:10-12
Notice what this Pharisee did. First – he declared how righteous he was. “I’m not like other men (and he gives God a list of those other men just in case God wasn’t paying attention). Then he tells God WHY he’s SO righteous: “I FAST TWICE A WEEK” and I GIVE TITHES OF ALL THAT I GET." Essentially, he was saying – God you are lucky to have me!!!
Now was tithing a good idea? Well yeah Proverbs 3:9-10 says “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” AND Malachi 3:10 “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”
So, yes… God loves the TITHE (we ought to do that)
AND was fasting a good thing? Well yeah! Isaiah 58:8-9 tells us – if we do our fasting correctly: “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
So, yes… God loves FASTING.
But then Isaiah 58:10 explains WHY fasting was beneficial: “if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”
In other words, fasting gives you extra money to help the hungry and afflicted.
But there’s another part of that passage (Isaiah 58:9) that the Pharisee overlooked. Yes, God loved fasting and said that (done the right way) fasting would speed your healing and impress God… But then God puts a condition in the verse: “IF you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness.”