Summary: Spiritual humility is pleasing to God.
Title: The Good Example of a Bad Man
Text: Luke 18:9-14
Thesis: Spiritual humility is pleasing to God.
Do you remember the old Mac Davis tune?
OOOH… it’s hard to be humble
when you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me
I must be a ter – rif - ic guy.
OOOH… it’s hard to be humble
but I’m doing the best that I can.
Mac Davis, like many of us, are prone to making presumptuous assumptions about ourselves and others. I would like for us to approach the story today by examining some common assumptions as they emerge from our text today:
1. We assume that we can distinguish a good person from a bad person, by looking.
[Jesus said,] “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector.” Luke 18:10
Assumptions come easy for some of us. We assume that the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black hats. We assume the guy with the big car has money and they guy with the beater is broke. We assume the effeminate man is gay and the masculine man is straight. We assume fat people are undisciplined and skinny people are vain. We assume the tackily dressed person is trampy and the well-dressed is demure.
We like it when the lines are clearly drawn between good and evil. We like it when things are black and white.
• In the bible it is God and Satan, angels and demons, righteousness and unrighteousness.
• In Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins and Gandolf the wizard battle Sauron, the embodiment of evil, for a ring that will control the course of history, either for good or evil.
• In C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, it is a battle between good and evil in a magical fairy-land where the good lion Aslan faces the evil White Witch.
• In the Harry Potter series it is Harry the “good wizard” and the evil Lord Volemort, “master of the dark arts.”
• In Star Wars it is an inter-galactic war between the good and evil forces of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.
This week I made a call down at St. Joseph’s Hospital… I happened to have a funeral later that morning, so I was dressed in a white shirt, tie, and pin-stripped suit. I immediately noticed that I was being treated differently, than when casually dressed. Everyone I met in the corridor and the nurse’s stations smiled and spoke to me. From now on, I’m going to keep wearing that stethoscope when I visit the hospital.
We make assumptions about people based on our perceptions of them. We may assume whatever we like, but the scriptures teach us plenty about assumptions. In I Samuel 16:, we are reminded that people look on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart or a person’s thoughts and intentions. In Jeremiah 17:9 the unseen human heart is described deceitful and desperately wicked and that only God can know what is in a person’s heart. In James 2 we are warned against forming prejudices based on a person’s appearance. There is wisdom in the old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Perhaps the problem of assumptions is not so much about what we assume about others, but what we assume about ourselves.
2. We assume a good person’s life is characterized by not doing outwardly bad things and doing good things.
“The proud 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! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give a tenth of my income.’” Luke 18:11-12
The problem with the Pharisee is not that he was a bad person because he was in fact, a very good person. He was doing all of the things expected of a religious person. He was honest as the day is long, he had no bad habits, he was faithful in his marriage, he fasted every Tuesday and Thursday, and he tithed a tenth of his income. What’s not to love?
If he was running a business, we would do business with him. If he was running for office, we would vote for him. If he was a university professor, we would want our children to enroll in his classes. If we were looking for an example of integrity, he would be our man.
His problem wasn’t that he wasn’t good. His problem was that he was proud of being good and in being so, looked down on other people.