Glad I’m Not Like Them

In a fascinating way, believers of all sorts have certain beliefs they value highly. The passionately theological value something. The Charismatic value something. The traditional value something. And all believe that the others around them should value what they value.

In truth, I believe that there is a definite right and wrong as to what ought to be important to believers. I believe that my understanding is from the word of God and not from my own preferences or personality. I believe that, in general, we would be better off if people valued what I value.

But there is a danger. Even if I am right, and I think I am right, there is a danger.

Luke 18:9-14 – 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

In this parable, Jesus describes two men. One is very proud of his righteousness. The other is very ashamed of his sin and cries out to God for grace. And we all know that the tax collector who is begging for mercy is the one who ends up justified.

How does that apply to what I said earlier? I actually would suggest that there are two dangers we face, and we can avoid them with a little prayerful thought.

First is the obvious one. Be careful not to think that you are somehow better than others in the faith because of the thing you think is most important. If you value enthusiastic worship, do not look down at the one who is more stoic. If you value evangelism, do not look down on the one who is more timid. If you value doctrine, don’t look down on the one who is poorly taught. We must begin from the understanding that we brought nothing good to the table to bring about our justification. We are sinners worthy of judgment. God brought the love and the grace to us. And we all, like the tax collector, need to cry to God to have mercy on us, sinners.

The other edge that people can fall off of here is to assume that, because we are all under mercy, nothing matters. That would be a bad move. We begin with humility and grace. But we also look into the word of
God to see what God says matters. When we see in the word of God that the Scripture is how we hear God’s voice instead of a subjective personal vision, we learn that matters. When we see that God has revealed a standard for worship that is theologically rich, word-centered, joyful, and reverent, that matters. When we see that Christians are called to share our faith, that matters. When we see that only God changes human hearts, that matters. When we see that God has made men and women with total equality in value and beautifully different roles, that matters.

In order to avoid falling off the road on either side, let’s try this. Let’s begin with absolute humility. We are sinners. Not one of us is better than any other. We dare not grow the attitude that says that I’m glad God did not make me like that guy over there. And then let’s bottle up that humility, keep it on us at all times, and study the word of God diligently so that we can learn what God values along with our humility so that we can love him, love others, and obey him rightly in all things for his glory.