Thanking God for Transformed Lives
In this sermon about pride, we are challenged not to be self-congratulatory Pharisees, but welcome people like the tax collector when they find mercy.
Where’s Our Focus?
When it comes to a life of contentment, having our eyes only ourselves, who we are, what we can achieve, or comparing ourselves favourably to others means we never truly see God’s goodness.
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
13 ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
14 ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Jesus Sets Up a Division
Luke 18:9–10 NEB
And here is another parable that he told. It was aimed at those who were sure of their own goodness and looked down on everyone else. ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-gatherer.
Jesus sets up a contrast in the mind of those listening between a godly Pharisee and a traitorous tax collector. There is no doubt which side the crowd will be on.
The Separatist Pharisee
Luke 18:11 NEB
The Pharisee stood up and prayed thus: “I thank thee, O God, that I am not like the rest of men, greedy, dishonest, adulterous; or, for that matter, like this tax-gatherer.”
Jesus’ story doesn’t make the expected point. He shows the Pharisee as a separatist. His desire for holiness has hardened into a life of self-righteousness. His “prayer” is more of a self-congratulatory monologuethan a prayer to God. Rather than despising the tax collector, the Pharisee should have welcomed him and been glad he was seeking God’s mercy.
Division or Gratitude?
As we conclude this sermon about pride, we must ask ourselves: Are we Pharisees or tax collectors? We can drive people away from the Lord or we can remember who we really are. We can remember we are Salvationists only because of God’s kindness in extending his mercy to us. We can seek love and compassion that allow us to thank God when others like the tax collector in Jesus’ story find God’s mercy and grace:
Pride preaches merit; humility pleads for compassion. Pride negotiates as an equal; humility approaches in need. Pride separates by putting down others; humility identifies with others, recognising we all have the same need. Pride destroys through its alienating self-service; humility opens doors with its power to sympathise with the struggle we share. Pride turns up its nose; humility offers an open and lifted-up hand. (Darrell Bock, scholar).
Let’s live a life of contentment by rejoicing when someone seeks Christ. Let’s praise God when someone finds Christ and is freed from a life of sin by his mercy and grace. And let’s thank God that we too have found his mercy and grace, his gifts beyond words.
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