A Plank in the “I”

Sometimes Jesus craftily alluded to the Pharisees in his parables and other times he left no doubt in their collective mind that He was talking about them. First, who were the Pharisees? Here’s a helpful definition from gotanswers.org:

The Pharisees were an influential religious sect within Judaism in the time of Christ and the early church. They were known for their emphasis on personal piety (the word Pharisee comes from a Hebrew word meaning “separated”) (emphasis mine).

One can almost imagine Jesus having that definition in mind when He shared this parable:

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 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. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “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.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

Luke’s description of Jesus’ audience in verse 9 makes it clear that at least some of those listening were Pharisees: “to some who were confident of their own righteousness.” This entire parable seems designed to say to them, “Yeah Pharisees, I’m looking at you!” The Pharisee in the parable uses the first-person, singular pronoun “I” four times in this very short prayer, which is really a prayer of thanks for himself.  He is grateful to God that he is so superior to the sinful masses all around him.   The tax collector ‘s prayer reveals a very different heart: “He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  Jesus tells the Pharisees who are listening that it is that man who went home justified.

God convicted me this week about the lesson in this parable. I recently watched a video in my online Bible studies where the lecturer pointed out that many Christ-followers read this parable and then give God thanks that they are like the lowly tax collector and not like the Pharisee in the story. As the instructor in the video put it: “they out Pharisee the Pharisee!” It then occurred to me that I was one of the “they” to which he referred.

The teacher was right. When I assume I’m doing a great job at being more like the repentant tax collector than the Pharisee, I am praying a “thank God for me prayer,” just as he was. It is my desire that I pastor with the same heart as the tax collector displayed. When I assume that I’m doing that perfectly, I’m displaying the same self-righteousness as the Pharisee did. In Matthew 7:3, Jesus warns his audience against judging others: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

When I assume other pastors, churches, or anyone else has a self-righteousness problem and I don’t, there is plenty of plank in this “I.” So, today I thank God for the lesson I watched this week and the gentle correction that came with it. Thank you, Heavenly Father, that the instruction of others can help us see things in Your Word that are meant for us that we might have been missing on our own. In Jesus name, Amen!

1 Comment
  • Misti Rose Rosa
    Posted at 17:27h, 08 October Reply

    May GOD always Bless you.!!

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