Luke 18:9-14 (NRSV) Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 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.11 The 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. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’13 But 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!’ 14 I 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.”
Today’s parable (a made-up story) is about two men who go to the temple to pray.
Jesus says the first man was a Pharisee.
The word, “Pharisee,” symbolizes a set of unattractive attitudes and behaviors. ,
This Pharisee has become a symbol of a person who thinks to himself,
“I am better than ….,
those other people who are riff-raff and detestable and contemptible.
I am better than those …
prostitutes who cruise on Saturday nights, and those bums sleeping on benches in the downtown ,
The Pharisees would think
I AM BETTER than
those poor souls who sleep in the church doorways, those addicts who are strung out on booze and drugs, those welfare folks who use their coupons to buy cigarettes in the grocery store in line in front of me,
those people who never darken the doors of the church, those bar hoppers who spend their life with their friends at the bar,those Muslims, those Jews, those gays, lesbians, and transvestites, transgenders–
those marriage losers who have divorced over and over — those prisoners who spent months, years or decades in jail. You know, those people who won’t work, but expect the government to take care of them
Saw themselves as GOOD…. Men who obeyed the law
- I work… pay taxes… pay bills…
- I go to church every week.
- I give ten percent of my income.
- I say my prayers daily.
IN JESUS’ DAY the Pharisees were the strict Jews.
They believed. They were disciplined. They took the Law seriously – so seriously, in fact, that they created a “hedge” around the law, called the Oral Law a tradition of the ELDERS – a tougher law with the idea that if they kept the rules of the Oral Law then they wouldn’t break the Mosaic Law.
By building a “hedge about the law” or fence around the law, the Jewish leaders would be able to ` develop a system of rules and interpretations that would keep people as far from sin as possible.
For example, if the law said not to work on the Sabbath day, they would make up volumes of rules that indicated exactly what actions constituted work. This made a huge separation between the so-called righteous and the sinners.
It also made following God a burden that Jesus Himself said was too heavy to carry.
It also allowed the leaders appear to be righteous, to approve and disapprove of people and to control all of the religious affairs within Judaism.
Jesus continually referred to the oral law as the “tradition of the elders” or the “tradition of men” (Matt 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-23;
The problem with building a hedge around the law is that the hedge often becomes the new law.
Pharisees would chastise the violation of the Jewish “hedge” law as if it were from the mouth of God.
When the hedge becomes the law, a new hedge ensues, to keep us from violating the new law.
Pharisees were members of an exacting party of the Jews who believed in strictly observing God’s law.
People became chained to these unrealistic laws; would wreck themselves while judging others – and all for something God did not intend.
In some ways, we might pity the Pharisee –
Their original intention may have been to safeguard against breaking Jewish Law, but as often happens,
original things change… and … the laws morphed into twisted versions that were nearly too difficult to observe.
Into MAN’s LAWS not Gods.
Possibly through no one’s fault…. Just good intentions gone too far
We too, have our “hedge” around the law.
At various times and in various churches there have been rules against flip-flops, sleeveless dresses, slacks for women, women not in leadership, abstaining from wine and hard liquor, beards, lack of beards, lack of head coverings, eating pork, dancing,eating any meat, drinking caffeinated drinks , smoking…
You get the idea.
None of these is stipulated clearly in the scripture, but each comes from a desire to please God and avoid
But, just as the Pharisees, Sometimes we misjudge others because of not knowing the origin of their beliefs –
What was their ORIGINAL intention for this law?
What has this got to do with us?
This entire year, our nation has been divided by what we know and what we think we know about two candidates –
Many people view the opposing side’s supporters as morons – uneducated and unthinking mobs –– people who will ignore illegal behavior — crude and socially unacceptable – liberals with no morals – conservatives with no ability to understand…
Much like the Pharisee –
We thank God we are NOT like those who support Trump –
We thank God we are NOT like those who support Clinton
We pray that those blind followers will see the truth before they vote…
WE only see THEM as one dimensional = WRONG
Until this morning, we only had a one dimensional view of PHARISEEs—-Bad men – who hated Jesus HOLIER than thou…. Self-serving…unrighteous
by taking time to learn about the Pharisee—-we have a broader understanding where they came from- what they originally intended —
Good intentions – that got lost in the shuffle…
The same can be said for how we view others in our nation this week…
Stop and look at ORIGINAL INTENTIONS and PURPOSE
Attempt to look at this election through your opposing supporter’s eyes… and try to understand how they have arrived at their decision…
NOT all intentions are selfish – self-serving – meant to hurt someone else…
As we continue to learn – not everyone takes the same path to get to the top of the mountain…