Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 19-20; Luke 18:1-23
9 Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust:10 “Two people went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of everything I receive.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.” (Luke 18:9-14, Common English Bible).
The late Margret Mead was a respected but also often controversial cultural anthropologist of the 1960s and 1970s. She once said, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” The Pharisee in the lesson today, yes, I know it is a parable and therefore not a real person, would have loved Margret Mead. His alleged uniqueness, I don’t believe, is what she had in mind.
The great danger of the Christian faith is that we somehow start to believe we are better than everyone else. No Pharisee was called a Christian, at least until Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea or perhaps Paul would have been the first. It is doubtful Joseph or Nicodemus would have called themselves Christians. While that is true, it is also true that sometimes, we can get a bit caught up in ourselves and start saying, “Look at them, they…”
There is the woman who comes into the church building with her service dog… “Look at her bringing that dog into the church. She should be ashamed. She doesn’t need that dog in here.” Nevermind that the woman is a quadriplegic and the dog is trained, to among other things, pick up things from the floor the woman might drop.
There is the man who was out drinking on Saturday night and wandered into the church building on Sunday morning. “Look at him, coming into church on Sunday morning after what he was out doing last night.” We never stop to think that perhaps this was the first time the man had been to church for many years and he was there to see if he might find help for his drinking problem.
“Look at that teenager hanging out with our youth group. Can you believe he is wearing a t-shirt advertising a beer company to the youth meeting?” No one ever stopped to think he might have, and actually did hear you. He never darkened the doorway of the church again.
The list could go on for far too long. We sometimes have a tendency to feel like we are better than those other folks. When we do, we are like the Pharisee from Jesus’ parable. Do these people sin? Yes! But never, ever forget, you and I do too.
There is an old story about a man with long hair, a week old beard, and dirty raggedy clothes who wandered into the church one Sunday morning. He started looking around for a place to sit. No one seemed to be willing to make any room for him to sit. Rumbles were going on through the sanctuary. Almost everyone in the congregation was uncomfortable he was there. “What was he doing there?” was a common thought. “Someone needs to tell him he needs to leave,” others were thinking.
Suddenly, an elderly man, one of the patriarchs of the church, came walking up the aisle. Everyone knew he was coming. They could hear his cane clicking on the tile floor. “Oh, the bum’s going to get it now. Mr. Smith is going to give him what for and then kick him out of here. We don’t need his type around here.”
Then the whole place went quiet when Mr. Smith got to the end of the aisle where the man was sitting. You could have heard a pin drop. And then there were gasps as Mr. Smith slowly, painfully sat down on the floor next to the man. He believed no one should have to sit alone during worship.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
With Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved