Daily Dose, Sept. 5 — True Religion

 

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’

But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 

I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

 

Our Lord Jesus was an outstanding storyteller. The parable of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are two of his very best. But the story of the tax collector who went up to the temple to say his prayers and join in the worship of God is one worth remembering.

He hadn’t been to church in a month of Sundays, so his sins were piled up pretty high, and he knew it. Have mercy on me, O God, was his prayer. He even pounded a little on his heart, which is where the problem always lies, and asked that God please make an Atonement for his wayward choices.

Standing aloof with his nose stuck up in the air was a Pharisee who hadn’t missed a worship service since Reagan was President. I’m glad I am not like the sinful man over there, crying about all the things he has done wrong. I give faithfully to the church and say my prayers, and I own a well-read Bible with lots of underlined passages. And I wouldn’t be caught dead talking with anybody like that Christmas and Easter fool for all the tea in China.

The Pharisee left the Temple a prime candidate for hell, while the sinful tax collector went home forgiven and renewed, says Jesus. The simple meaning is that we all need the MERCY of God, and we are dead wrong if we think otherwise.

Bad religion makes a person arrogant. True religion makes a person aware of their need for God’s forgiveness. Bad religion looks down on others rather than up to God. True religion comes into the sanctuary ready to confess our own sins. Bad religion thinks that it has life figured out and has all our puzzle pieces together. True religion knows that it will never even find all the puzzle pieces and so learns to live with humility.

“Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer,” is a hymn we could sing every Sunday. — Y’all come, Dr. Don