Updated: Jul 16, 2019
7/14/19 Luke 18:9-14
The header above this section in many Bibles says, The Pharisee and the Publican.
Here’s proof we should all be like the publican. And if we can't be like the publican on the first try, we can try again and be re-publicans… haha. But we actually should be like this publican, not because publican’s another name for a tax collector, but because of his perspective on his relationship TO God (not with God).
In contrast, we should NOT be like this Pharisee, a religious leader of the Jews. And why not? Because he was among those Jesus said, “…trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt.” Whether this contempt was caused by their self-righteousness, or if their self-righteousness was caused by their contempt, is unclear (what do you think?). But regardless of its origin, it is a sinful game that is played at the expense of all of its victims. That blame game of contempt and comparison is a dangerous one to play. There are no winners.
In this game, you either lull yourself into the delusion you’re far better than you truly are, all the while dislocating your shoulder while patting yourself on the back. The tragic result of this is you end up believing you don’t need God or His grace as much as others do, thus keeping you from experiencing the wonder of His grace.
The other path is that when things aren’t going so well in life, everyone else must be to blame. It certainly can’t be your own fault! You are the victim of other’s failures and lack of attention to your unique plight. Someone else must always be to blame. And the nagging unspoken undertone of this one is you actually start to believe you deserve grace and success.
If that is your perspective, and your view of reality, it will shape the way you act. It will shape the way you come before God.
So how should we be like the publican? We should be like the publican in how he came before God. How he came before God reflects his relationship TO God. We must first see our relationship TO God accurately, before we can have a right relationship WITH God. This is key.
It is key to our understanding of God’s grace. It is key to our understanding the gospel.
This simple prayer he prays travels well. It crosses denominational and political lines. It cuts through theological barriers. It spans economic and racial differences. And it communicates a heart open to receive whatever it is God has for him. He’s claiming nothing he thinks he deserves based on his performance, but he’s just asking for mercy. He is starting at the ground zero of our relationships to God. We are sinners. We are sinful.
No excuses, no blame, no special qualifications or circumstances. We all come at this one on a level playing field.
Here’s what he didn’t do: he didn’t start by thinking he was any closer to God than anyone else when he approached God. Or that he deserved some special consideration. This is key in finding the grace we need. This is key in understanding the gospel that is to travel to everyone in the world.
And what happens when this is your approach to God? You find access.
You find a God who has already made provision for your wobbly approach. You then find this approach has led you to a throne, not of judgment, but of grace where you can receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
You find this access to God through Jesus, our great high priest. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
You then realize He’s been anticipating this far longer than you have. As a matter of fact, He has called you to this. And you start to,… begin to,… get a first glimpse… of God’s far reaching love for you. You find a love that has driven His plans and will for far longer than you can imagine.
Where it was impossible for you to do anything about your sin or circumstances, He has made way for you and continues to prepare a place for you to be with Him in His Father’s house forever.
And in taking this approach of humility, and finding this kind of access and this reception, you, like the publican, go away justified by God’s grace. What’s your approach to God like?