Our opinions can get us into trouble. If I were to say any of the presidential candidates were the best thing since sliced bread, then I would get in trouble with half of you. What seems right in my head might actually not be a good thing!
Yet, I am not the only who suffers this malady. We humans can get so set in our ways we hurt ourselves. We think we are justified for thinking one particular way. And we stick with that one particular way, regardless of the outcome.
Though, there are times we do recognize we can change our thinking. We hold our hats and go see the one we have wronged. We realize that we have been wrong. So, we say that we have been wrong. We end up relying on the mercy of the person we have wronged.
When we trust our own ways and regard others with contempt, we can be in for a world of hurt. Yes, it is strange to see the words “trust” and “contempt” in the same phrase. How often do we trust in ourselves and regard others with contempt? As we are examining this passage, we remember Jesus is speaking to his disciples. Less we think that since we call ourselves Christians we no longer trust in ourselves and regard others with contempt. Will we be justified?
A. Jesus tells a parable to his disciples (17:22 & 18:9)
1. Jesus must have known that we disciples would be like the rest of humanity
2. Some of us do this way of thinking
a. Trust in themselves that they are righteous – is there someone else to trust to let us know we are righteous?
b. And regard others with contempt – this sounds like we are making sure someone else can not be righteous
3. Will we be justified? When we justify ourselves, we do get a good feeling. But it doesn’t last. When we justify ourselves and then we hold others in contempt, I don’t know how we feel. But we surely do know how to trust ourselves and hold others in contempt. Yes, church, we know how to do this activity. How can we stop this activity? Jesus tells us how with this parable.
B. The parable of two men (18:10-13)
1. Went to the Temple – God’s Temple
2. To pray – there was some need to speak with and hear from God
3. Two men
a. A Pharisee
b. A tax collector
4. The Pharisee – how he prayed
5. The tax collector – how he prayed
6. Will we be justified? Our prayers might not be that different. We don’t like the idea of looking bad before others. How do we look before God? As we pray like the Pharisee, we miss out on the truth. We may be exactly like we pray, but why are we tooting our own horns before God? He already knows how we are. As for fasting and tithing, we do these activities in obedience to God. He already knows what we are doing! To admit to God that we have sinned, that is a prayer God accepts. What does all of this mean for us? Jesus clarifies what matters.
C. What does this mean for us? (18:14)
1. Jesus says the tax collector went home justified
2. Jesus said this particular Pharisee was not justified
3. How do we think of ourselves? Will we be justified? We can justify ourselves any number of ways. But when God justifies us, then we go beyond our feelings, our ability to justify ourselves. Yet, humbling ourselves is not common to us. I know I can ride a bicycle. I have ridden over 2000 miles on my old bicycle. But I also know there are amateur and professional riders who ride that much in a month! It is humbling. Yet, I can admit who I am. Before God, I am a sinner. Telling that to God keeps me from being righteous in my own eyes. For God is holy, and I am not holy. Letting God make my holy, make me righteous, is the only thing I can do.
I don’t know why we try to make ourselves look better than the other person. It is only Jesus who has completely obeyed God. And he had to die on the cross to do that. I haven’t been that obedient. It is God who can get me into his kingdom.
Will we be justified? May we humble ourselves before God? I am confident that God can lift us up. I am confident God can and will exalt us. What about us, will this be the day we allow God to justify us? Or will we continue to try to justify ourselves and hold others in contempt?