Gardendale Nazarene

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Archives for April 2017 | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

Invisible People

In Luke 18, we read the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The story reads, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 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!’ 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.’”

We see two characters in this parable- a Pharisee (one presumed righteous) and a tax collector (one presumed unrighteous).

Let’s briefly look at the two characters. First, we see the Pharisee beginning his prayer with thanksgiving, but the thanksgiving is not ‘thanks’ at all. Rather, his supposed thanks turns into judgment. “Lord, I’m glad I’m not as pitiful as those nasty sinners!” What kind of prayer is this?

Then the Pharisee recounts his own righteousness. “I fast twice a week, rather than the once a year required by the law. I tithe on all my produce, not just that which is stipulated by the law.”

The tax collector, on the other hand, understands his place before God. He stands humbly before God and admits his position, a sinner. As we have seen with many of the parables, Jesus loved to use this reversal of characters.

The challenge to me in this parable relates to a quote a few months ago from one of our General Superintendents, David Busic. Dr. Busic wrote, “Who are the ‘invisible’ people in our communities who are not in or touched by our churches? Why are they absent? What will we do?”

I think it is easy to fall into the trap of the Pharisee. Sometimes, it is too easy to look down on those ‘tax-collectors’ in our lives. This parable reminds us that we all approach God in the same way, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

I believe when we understand our place before God, it is much easier to see the ‘invisible’ people in our communities who desperately need God. When we remember our need for God, we can’t help but be moved to compassion for those who do not know God.

This year, I have been challenging the church board with Busic's quote. This challenge is not just for the church board, it is for all of us. It is my prayer, that we pray that God will open our eyes to those in our community that are not 'touched' by the local churches. Will we look down on them as a Pharisee? Or will we join them in prayer, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’