Summary: A sermonette (I will use this at rest home services) about a bloke who had it so right with God it really make things quite messy in his relationships with his fellow man. Hey I'm just pleased I'm not like him. ;)
Jesus had a subtle and sometimes not so subtle way of getting through to people. I like how he delivers a message to a group of people who thought they had it bang on right with God, to a group of people who were confident that they had it right with God. Jesus tells them a story that actually cuts to the quick in such a way that they are left in no certain terms understanding that they are not right with God, because of the way they see others.
Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14
9 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer[a]: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The tax collector, a man who knew he was a sinner returned home justified. That word justified means, “just as if I’d never sinned”, why because he asked God for mercy. He knew he was out of sorts with God, he was real. I’ll say that again he was real about where he stood with God.
The Pharisee, came before God knowing he had ticked all the boxes, this bloke had a list that ensured he was right with God
• Not a sinner
• Don’t cheat
• Don’t sin
• Not an adulterer
• Certainly not like that tax collector
• Fast twice a week
• You get a tenth of my income
Pharisee’s thought bubble -“Indeed God, I've got it sorted”. Well he probably did, he had a good lifestyle, what we would call a Christian lifestyle today. He had nailed the commandments – well pretty much. Except one thing, he was condemning of his fellow man, Jesus uses the word “despised”.
And take a look at the bloke he was condemning. He is beating his breast declaring his sinfulness and asking God for mercy. He knows that he’s not right with God. But in approaching God in this way, he becomes justified; his relationship with God is restored. He has a clean slate with our Heavenly Father. You might think that it seems to be it’s about attitude.
One came, hands clean, boxes ticked but despising his fellow man. The other, his hands had been up to no good, he was burdened by a weight of self-loathing. The tax collector didn’t need the religious bloke’s judgement. He had bucket loads of his own. The tax collector was not going through the motions; he was feeling the weight of his actions and knowing he was dirty before God, out of sorts with God. He knew the wrongs he had done.
The Pharisee bloke should have read Romans 3:23, but he couldn't it had to be written by another Pharisee and a follower of Jesus, Paul. Romans 3:23 says this “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Jesus was bringing an awesome piece of teaching: that it was not all the things that we do or don’t do, it’s our heart attitude before God that counts. Sure we are best as believers to “live a life worthy of y[our] calling”, the scriptures tell us in Ephesians 4:1, that bloke Paul again. (At that time a prisoner because of the faith he had in Jesus.)
But! We should never judge those who are on the way to sorting it out with God. That’s not our job…it is by God’s grace that they will be saved, not our judgement. Paul follows up that bit about “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” with these words; “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
It’s our role to welcome all, to accept all so that they may come to know of Christ’s redemption. I leave you with the words of one Billy Graham, when he was supporting a man who had been involved in a scandal, “It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and my job to love.”