Thank God I’m not…
“3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; 4 What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? 5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty. 6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.”
“The Pharisee tried, in his prayer, to prove his justification. “
a Pharisee and the tax collector
What have we forfeited in Christ for the deceptive pursuit of seeking our value and worth outside of Jesus? Anytime we seek for our value and worth to be placed outside of Christ, then, intrinsically, we place the value and worth of every other human person. Ascribing value outside of Christ in temporal modes. If, for you, value and worth is wrapped up in position, in a job title, then you will forever place every person on earth, their sense of value and worth, under a job title. If you put a sense of value and worth in money, you will likely assume that those with money have a true value and worth. Looking to those who drive the nice car, have the big houses as someone to aspire to be like.
In Luke chapter 15 Jesus teaches a very specific lesson. The first portion of the lesson comes in Luke 15:1-2 “1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around to listen to Jesus. 2 So the Pharisees and scribes began to grumble: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Understand something about the Pharisees and these people that are mentioned in this short narrative, they were the religious elite. These complaints came from their elitist context. However Jesus, valuing what is lost, wouldn’t allow this negativity to keep him from his mission. Jesus never shunned those the religious elites kept at arms length. Jesus allowed the local stigma, religious context, socioeconomic background or any other seemingly negative characterization to keep him form valuing that which was lost.
Jesus drew every person to him, yet the religious leaders of the day had this prayer that is mimicked by Jesus in Luke 18:11-14; “11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
This is a great a prayer of great contrast; a Pharisee and the tax collector, someone who is marginalized in society as opposed to the religiously righteous. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself, ‘God, I thank you that you have not made me like other people, swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all I get.” In this prayer of the Pharisee, in this dichotomy of a prayer, in another portion of Scripture, it even says the Pharisees would pray, “Thank you God for not making me a woman.” In fact, it went on to say that the women should pray, “Thank you God for making me just as you have seen fit,” that there was a hard line in Jewish understanding of men and women; that women were second-class citizens. The Pharisees, the religious leaders, would even say, “Thank God I’m not like that lower-class citizen.” Cultural context exposing the great dichotomy Jesus is describing.
Jesus understood the heart of both men and the prayer they were praying. One cried for mercy in his prayer, the tax collector, wouldn’t even look up to heaven. He bowed his head and said, “God, have mercy on me.” The Pharisee tried, in his prayer, to prove his justification. This sets up the scene for who Jesus is talking to. Jesus sitting around those who are lost, who he values, who have a sense of dignity and worth just by their very human nature, Jesus calling them and pulling on their heart to follow him, and yet the religious leaders of the day, who prayed this way, who thought this way, said to themselves, “Who is this that he would sit around sinners and tax collectors? Who is this that he would befriend a sinner?”
This is a question we have to ask ourselves. If we know that we have intrinsic value, dignity and worth as human persons, one of the worst things we can do is to succumb to the Christian bubble. That, after two years of being a Christ follower, disavows all non-Christian / non-church relationships. Life only happening within the sphere of our Christian bubble, denying the real world around us that is lost, that needs Jesus. If we are to be true disciples of Christ, if we’re to be true followers of Jesus, we should value that which is lost.