Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sheep and Goats

The Parable of the Pharisee and the publican (tax collector)

Luke 18:9-14
And he (Jesus) he spoke this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess."
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

What does it mean?

Of course, during those times, Pharisees were the richer of the Jewish leaders (Sadducees were born commoners, and considered middle class.) Publicans (also known as tax collectors) were always looked down upon. They collected taxes for Rome, and were considered just as lowly as a gentile by many Jews.

It was common practice for a Pharisee, being considered of high rank in society, to publicly display just how holy and honored by God he was. So, we have a Pharisee exalting all the good works and deeds he has done, and denouncing the lowly publican for what he does. And, we have the publican, humble before God and quiet before society, who simply asks God to have mercy on him as he is a sinner.

Why would God be more pleased by the sinner, rather than the Pharisee? Did not the Pharisee do all that God requires? Did he not live the life he should? Why is it that God does not find favor with this man?

Pride. Ego.

It is one thing to walk around, holier than your brother, in an effort to prove to society just how holy you are. It is quite another to admit your sins, head hung in shame, before the Lord.

When we feel the urge to judge another, are we standing as the Pharisee, or as the publican? Do we judge them by saying we are better than them... or do we see them as sinners the same as ourselves? When we speak to them, do we dress them down while proclaiming how holy we are? Or, do we approach them quietly, with humility, and tell them of God's mercy?

Somehow I get the feeling God doesn't care for lip service. Even in Matthew, it speaks of the sheep being separated from the goats.

Matt 25: 32-46
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

We can pay lip service all we want, crying out to God and others how holy we are by keeping his laws, while judging those around us as horrible sinners unworthy of our attention or time. Or, we can show the Light of Christ to our fellow mankind, keeping humble, and doing our best to care for those around us. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

Just some early morning musings.