“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men– robbers, evildoers, adulterers– or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“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.’
In any normal group setting, and during a normal conversation, you can easily hear people chatting and one telling the other, how better they could have done what their colleague had done. If it’s a football match, you could easily hear…’if I was the one, I could have ran very fast to beat that last opponent then slide the ball past the goalkeeper into the net’.
Such conversations are not new to anyone. Probably what may be new about them is that the second party is judging the first party either knowingly or unknowingly. I want to believe that this is part of the human existence. That God created us with that judgement tag inside us. This is particularly present with carnal mind. You are free to object.
Naturally, we tend to judge. Using the football analogy above, the second party believes that they would have done excellently if they were given chance to play. But this may not necessarily be the case. The second party can even perform dismally than the first party. Or they may not just make much difference.
Failure to see others as better than you is failure of highest order in life. Thinking that others are inferior to you is like undermining God who created them. Taking others as sinful, and thinking that righteousness belongs to you is portraying spiritual illiteracy that no angel can heal. It’s like saying, one is at the same level with God as others trail behind them. God forbid.
As with the case of the Pharisee and the tax collector, it’s apparent that the Pharisee was self righteous. He felt satisfied. According to him, God should even have crowned him as his righteous child as early as yesterday. He feels he has done everything for God. His heart is proud. To him, there can never be any condemnation whatsoever. He is right in all things. He tithes, he gives a tenth, he is not a robber, he is not a sinner. He is holy. He is equal to God.
On the other hand, the tax collector is remorseful; right from his body language as explained by the scriptures, to his uttered words. He feels empty. He has a desire for God. He desperately needs him. He is a sinner. He has realized that he is not in God’s will. So, he needs God. Believe me that this is the right spirit. This is the type of person God wants. Because he humbled, God got concerned.
Now, in the today’s modern world, we tend to have these two extremes of believers. In this sermon, I would like to emphasize on the Pharisee. There are believers who have ‘self righteousness’. They believe they are perfect. They think that other believers are not better than them. They spend time judging other believers. They even know which believers pray the prayers that are acceptable by God. They can even tell you when God will visit you. I mean, they are perfect. They know it all.
When those self righteous believers are in church, they watch how their fellow worshippers sing, and pray to God. For them, God heard their prayers already. For others, they need to tighten up their belts because God won’t visit them if they don’t make effort.
Believers who have self righteousness will come to you and tell you to repent thoroughly especially when you are passing through hard times. They will tell you that it’s a punishment from God and so you need to get rid of sin in your life. Even when you don’t find any problem around yourself, they insist that God’s punishment is what is manifesting through the hard moments in the physical realm.
In the book of James 4:6 the Bible says that God opposes the proud and lifts up the humble. As the case with the Pharisee and the tax collector, the Pharisee was brought low in the face of God while the tax collector was lifted up in the face of God. So, if you know what you do to your fellow worshippers, then you are either lifted before God or humbled. It’s you who knows well your position.
It’s high time we change our behavior. We need to appreciate the fact that God created everyone uniquely. No one is better than the other. If anything, all of us have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
Spending time judging others leaves us with a punishment from God (Luke 6:38). We should instead pray for others. We should do to others what we wish be done to us. In all circumstances, we should remain humble before God so that we don’t attract his wrath.
God bless you this Sunday!