“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others…” (Luke 18:9)
I encourage you to get your Bible and read the whole parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14).
“I already know that story Pastor. I don’t need to read it.”
I’m sure you are familiar with this parable, but I would suggest that we are actually TOO FAMILIAR with it. We read this parable and we disassociate ourselves from either the Pharisee or the publican. In other words — I’m afraid we miss the point of this parable because we think we already KNOW the story.
Have you stopped to think about the parallels in this parable?
Both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector wanted to stand before God.
Both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector went to church (the temple).
Both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector approached God through prayer.
Both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector believed they were examining their hearts seriously.
Let me explain this a bit. And pay careful attention. Both these men attended church with you yesterday (and every Sunday). In fact, YOU are one of these men!
It appears that both these men had some kind of knowledge of themselves. They both used a system to measure themselves in order to determine their relationship to God.
The Pharisee measured himself by looking at others. Instead of looking to God — he looked at himself on a horizontal level and measured himself by comparing himself to everybody else. He looked DOWN at the Tax Collector and therefore allowed the Tax Collector to become the standard for his measurement.
The result? PRIDE — COMPLACENCY — and SPIRITUAL STAGNATION.
On the other hand, the Tax Collector didn’t compare himself to everybody else. He looked up to God as the divine standard. When he compared himself to THAT standard, he had a completely different experience.
The result? He was AWARE of his sin. He CONFESSED his guilt. He made a PLEA for mercy.
The Pharisee went away from church that day UNCHANGED. He made no decisions that brought him any closer to the Lord. He had no excitement for reaching people. He was simply more detached and isolated in his complacency. As a matter of fact — going to church for this guy was a total waste of time. His experience was all about ME, ME, ME.
“I’m better than everybody here. I don’t even know why I bothered to come. They aren’t excited to see me. They didn’t sing songs I like. They didn’t recognize me for all the wonderful things I do and have done for this church. I may as well have stayed home if they aren’t going to pay any more attention than that to me!”
The Tax Collector had an entirely different experience. Jesus said in verse 14 that the Tax Collector “went down to his house justified rather than the other.” That is a legal term that declares that his prayer was hard and that his plea was granted. His sin was forgiven. He was accepted by God. He entered into a relationship with God in which he would be treated as if he had never sinned.
“Going to church was such a wonderful experience for me today. We sang some new song about the love and mercy of God. The Holy Spirit spoke to me through that message and I saw my need to confess a sin I had harbored for far too long. Immediately, I knew God had forgiven me through His Son Jesus Christ. What a marvelous day! I LOVE going to worship at church. GOD IS GOOD.”
Here’s my question for YOU. What happens when YOU go to church? Do you look around and congratulate yourself because you are so much better than everybody sitting around you? Do you sit in your pew or chair all swelled up with pride because you are outwardly perfect? If so — you are wasting your time. You are looking in the wrong direction.
When I go to church, I thank God that I am able to bow my head and my heart, confess my sin and have the complete assurance that the God of mercy and grace hears me and forgives me. I am then able to be an encouragement to others and I go home singing and shouting because I belong to God!
How was YOUR church experience yesterday?
Have a great day.