The Pharisee and Me
Sean Roberds | Oct 19, 2016
The Pharisee and Me
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
In reading this passage as devotion it seems fairly clear that Jesus wants the readers to see themselves as the Pharisee. I am well aware of my common sins, the ones I commit all the time, and I confess them regularly. It’s easy for me to read this passage and say yep, I‘m just like the tax collector, I’m a sinner. But I think Jesus wants me to wake up to the times when I’m the Pharisee. That’s a bit harder for me because, well, I just don’t like him.
This text is very familiar to me and sometimes the texts we know best are the ones that call us to go deeper. To go beyond the normal thought process to discover truths we don’t easily see. When I allow myself to look at the Pharisee as a possible reflection of who I might be, it is the very questions that expose me. Do I ever approach worship with arrogance as if I’m informing God on what God needs to know? Do I ever come to worship only to thank God that I am not like other people? Do I ever come before God and never ask for anything because I am blind to my own deficiencies? Do I stand at a distance, alone in worship as if I don’t need it but it needs me?
When I settle in to read the weekly passages I try to take 10 minutes of silence as part of my prayer time. The silence is hard for me. I am easily distracted by thoughts of the day and tasks I need to get done. This scripture has led me to wonder if there is another reason the silence is hard. Maybe the silence is hard because I believe I already have all the answers. How many times have I read this parable? How many times have I used it in preaching? Yet how many times have I paid attention to the message it has for me? Is Nathan waiting at the door to get me to finally see that “I am that Man?”
Lord, in these moments of devotion teach me to read each passage as your prayer to me. Keep me from thinking only of other people when I read your word. Help me to see myself in the Pharisee so I can come to the awareness of my own self-righteousness. Then and only then help me to be like the publican who begs for true mercy.