Luke 18: verse 11 “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get” [from the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector].
Wow, this guy is sure proud of himself. His prayer is less of an admonition to the Lord and more of a self-congratulatory pat on his own back.
This is all spoken in the context of the parable that Jesus taught about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The tax collector is a well-known sinner; he makes his living by collecting taxes and skimming money from the funds he is collecting. The Pharisee is the community’s highly visible religious leader.
People watch his actions and copy his behaviors.
Pastor Idleman wonders in Chapter 13: “Why is He [Jesus] so tough on the Pharisees?”
The answer is that the elder brother probably got his cues from the local Pharisee. What are some of those cues? Do the words “unreasonable, unpleasurable, uncaring and unmerciful” come to mind? Those are four words we heard in Chapter 1. These are words which many would use to describe the God that keeps them from even exploring Christianity.
Stop and consider this.
It is normal to see our heavenly father through the framework of our earthly father. If you have a cruel, hate-filled, dismissive earthly father, it may be hard to see a heavenly Father as anything other than cruel, hate-filled and dismissive.
If you have a Pharisee who is cruel, hate-filled and dismissive, it is just another bad representative of God.
Pastor Idleman has the ability to take complex notions and put them in a context we can all understand. He uses the example of a sales representative in a department store. Say you are in the store and the sales rep. uses foul language and gets pushy. This experience would cloud how we feel about the whole store.
Many would never go back to the store because of this bad encounter. The whole store is bad.
That is not the truth.
That sales rep. is bad.
However, that sales rep. represents the whole store.
Jesus knows that.
If a self-righteous Pharisee stands up in public and prays a prayer totally lacking in humility, the whole religion lacks tolerance for the sinner. If a self-righteous Pharisee expresses unreasonable, unpleasurable, uncaring and unmerciful thoughts, the whole religion is misrepresented.
Again, the elder brother gets his cues from the Pharisee and he assumes that God is like the Pharisee.
The elder brother could not be further from the truth.
His own father shows him the way of God as he runs down the street to his younger brother. His own father shows him the way of God as he hugs and kisses his younger brother and forgives him his sin.
But does the elder brother see that?
Pastor Idleman says that there are lots of Pharisees out there who are totally misrepresenting the heart of God; “there are a lot of older brothers totally misrepresenting the heart of God.”
No mercy for the Pharisee.