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Pastor's Column 11/26/2023


“The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people – 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.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God …” Luke 18:11-14a, NIV

“When Attitude Cancels Gratitude”

The memorable parable that captures the praying approach of two men, who made their way to the Jerusalem Temple, has a more urgent message. Jesus gave the parable to address “some [people] who looked down on others, and were confident in their own righteousness.” Simply said, Jesus gives a warning for His listeners to realize how a person’s attitude can bring harm to their spirit. It’s obvious each of the men in the parable have arrived at the right place; however, their motives are different. The Pharisee was a member of a religious group that prided themselves on the austerity with which they regarded the Law of Moses. So fastidious were the Pharisees in their behavior, the name which branded them meant, “the separate ones.” This was evident in the behavior of a group who persistently looked down on others, who did not adhere to their way of doing things. When the Pharisee and the other unpretentious man entered the Temple, it was evident by anyone’s glance, which of the two, was over-confident. Considering the language of the prayer the Pharisee gave, it appears he was grateful for where he assumed his character and actions made him better than the other man. One can note the Pharisee thanked God four times more than the despised tax collector; but in each instance, adoration was given to himself. The Pharisee used what the late Dr. Gardner C. Taylor called, “the narrowest of all pronouns: I.” While we should express our gratitude to God at all times, we must be cautioned that a person’s attitude could render the gratitude self-serving and without merit. Indeed, unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector remorsefully held his head down; eyes closed, and admitted he was a sinner. Jesus hailed that man as justified; meaning, being in a right relationship with God.

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