DayBreaks for 10/1916 – If You Do, Then You Aren’t

DayBreaks for 10/19/16 – If You Do, Then You Aren’t

The famous actor Gregory Peck was once standing in line with a friend, waiting for a table in a crowded Los Angeles restaurant. They had been waiting for some time, the diners seemed to be taking their time eating and new tables weren’t opening up very fast. They weren’t even that close to the front of the line. Peck’s friend became impatient, and he said to Gregory Peck, “Why don’t you tell the maitre d’ who you are?” Gregory Peck responded with great wisdom. “No,” he said, “if you have to tell them who you are, then you aren’t.”

That’s a lesson that the Pharisee in our gospel reading apparently had never learned. His prayer, if it can be called that, is largely an advertisement for himself. He’s selling himself to God. Little wonder that Luke describes him in the way he does, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself.” That’s a very apt description, isn’t it — he prayed with himself. He would have done better had he had Gregory Peck there to whisper in his ear that if he had to remind God who he was, then he wasn’t.

The tax collector, on the other hand, didn’t have to tell God who he was. He knew who he was and he knew that God knew who he was. His prayer is not an exercise in self-promotion, but a confession and a plea for mercy. He is not selling himself, but opening himself. And Jesus says, “It is this man who went home justified.” To be justified means to be declared “not guilty.” It means to be declared right. The tax collector is declared to be in the right relationship to God while the Pharisee, who is so certain of his own righteousness, is shown to be in the wrong relationship with God. He is not justified before the bar of God’s justice which is the court of ultimate consequence.

Let’s note, however, that all this doesn’t mean that the Pharisee was a bad person and the tax collector really a good person. There’s no suggestion of that in this parable. It flat out doesn’t say. But we do know that God loves the humble and resists the proud. We also know that Scripture says there is no such thing as a “good” person, so it’s a moot point. But, the contrast between these two couldn’t be clearer. Both were “bad” persons (as we all are biblically), but one of the bad ones had a right relationship with God and God was pleased to justify the humble man. Just because the Pharisee told God how great he was didn’t mean he was great or righteous. The Lord loves a penitent heart!

He’ll be glad to justify any of us…if we’re willing to admit who and what we are.

PRAYER: We are all great sinners, Lord. I’m thankful that you justify even people like me! And please keep us from being proud of any level of humility we may have. Thank you!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

 

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DayBreaks for 7/13/12 – The Day Jesus Met the Lawyer

DayBreaks for 7/13/16 – The Day Jesus Met the Lawyer

The parable of the Good Samaritan arises out of a discussion between Jesus and a Pharisee. Please understand that the Pharisees were more than just religious folk – they were the lawyers of their time, so here we see a religious lawyer asking Jesus a question on the nature of the law. Luke sets the stage this way: Behold a lawyer stood up to put him to the test.

Do you get it? It’s a trick question! I am sure it’s not the first time and won’t be the last time that a lawyer poses a trick question. It was the kind of question in which any kind of an answer would pose still further problems (such as the proverbial “Have you stopped kicking your dog yet?” question – there is no way to succeed with a question phrased in that way.) So, here’s the test question: Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life. Now right away we know that this man was a Pharisee, because the Pharisees believed in eternal life and the Sadducees did not. Jesus could tell that this man was an astute student of the law so he asked him: What is written? In other words, use your own mind to discern the essence of the law. Jesus, like a good discussion leader, throws the question right back in his lap.

The lawyer has a good answer. He said: You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and mind and strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. This was a direct quote from Deuteronomy 6. It was part of the Shema, a confession regularly made in Jewish worship. Jesus says: “Excellent. You are correct.” If he were a teacher I suppose he would have said: “You get A+.” Jesus is saying he has no issue with that answer. Do this and you shall live. You have not only penetrated to the essence of the law but you have worded it succinctly. 

The question had been asked and the answer given. You would think that the man would be pleased and go home. But lawyers are never happy. A lawyer’s responsibility is to define the limits of liability. “But he, desiring to justify himself, asked ‘Who is my neighbor.'” In other words, where does my responsibility stop? Who exactly am I responsible for?”

Therein is a clue to the heart of a Pharisee (including modern-day Christian Pharisee’s): we want to know how far we are required to go, how much (or more properly, how little) is required of us. It is an indicator of a heart that isn’t totally sold out to God or His will.

When God has asked you for something such as obedience to His word and commands, do you in your mind and heart start a lawyerly discussion with God to press the issue to know how far you really have to go in obedience? If so, that may be an indicator that you’d be a good lawyer…and a Pharisee.

We are all pharisaical from time to time, but if we find ourselves asking these kind of defining questions instead of simply saying, “Yes, Lord and Master!” we may be much bigger Pharisees than we want to believe.

PRAYER: Jesus, I know there are parts of my life where I want to get away with doing as little as I can in response to your leading. Help me be more fully sold out to you and less of a Pharisee! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.