Luke 18:9-14, ESV
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
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!’
Essentially it would seem, that there are only two kinds of people, (which simplifies things.) On the right stands the religious man, who has confided in a level of righteousness that he deems adequate. But his sin is multi-faceted. A big chunk has to do with how he perceives others in comparison to himself. He often despises those who are failures, losers, and criminals. He points to them only to bolster his own standing. It generates his own feelings of religiousness.
Too many churches have become places were Pharisees come together to congratulate themselves. These men and women do not operate from brokenness and humility. They know nothing of tears over their sin. But they pat themselves on their back because of their progress in the ways of God. Life seems so wonderful in our churches. We leave the service comfortably encouraged in our self-righteousness.
The tax-collectors of this world are its drunks, addicts, mentally ill, and the losers. They stand afar off. And they don’t even have the energy or confidence to turn to God. They know exactly what they have done, and understand perfectly that they are less then zero. There is such a gap between these two men, and it has only deepened to this present situation.
Where are the bipolar, the schizophrenic, the person with OCD in our churches? For that matter, where has is the unwed mother, the crack addict, and the homosexual gone? I will tell you where, they are “standing afar off”. People with ugly secrets and intense issues are often scared to death by religious people.
Please be aware. I didn’t intend for this to be a hard word. But many of the “rascals” of the Church have gone missing! We must seek them out and bring them home. The sinner very often needs our encouragement to “come and dine” with Jesus. The last verse of Jesus’ parable sums up the lesson–
“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.”