The Pharisee Within
     We in the New Testament church have disdain for the Pharisee, seeing them as rigid and unforgiving.  Few of us see ourselves as being like them, of believing that there lurks a Pharisee within.  Yet there can be, and the scripture found in Luke 18 shows how.  Jesus observes two men praying in the Temple, one of them, a tax collector, despised by the Jews and most especially by the religious leaders of the day, simply lifted his eyes to God and prayed, "O Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner."  But of the Pharisee, scripture says, "The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself, 'God I thank you that I'm not like other men, robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector."  Jesus said that it was the tax collector, not the Pharisee, who went away justified before God.  Both felt grateful toward the Father, but which one had a thankfulness that would be considered righteous in the eyes of God?
     How does this speak to you and me?  Consider this day just what we are thankful for, and where does that thankfulness take us?  The Pharisee was thankful for the blessings of God on his life, and he was thankful that he was not counted among the "unblessed," or, unblessed as he would define them.  He was thankful for his good life, for the esteem in which others held him, for how well things went for him.  Yet all the blessings in his life did not soften his heart towards others, especially those who didn't seem to have his blessing.  His heart was not opened towards them, but closed off.  He viewed them with disdain, if he viewed them at all.  His heart was focused on himself, and he didn't see the blessings of God as something he received, he didn't deserve, but instead as what he very much did deserve.  He lived in a spirit of entitlement, he lived a blessing dependent life.  If he loved the Father, it was because He blessed him, not simply because He was the Father.  Since he had little real love for the Father, he had even less for those around him.  And, if the blessings were to cease, it's likely that his "love" for Him would as well.  Can we see any of ourselves in that as well?  Can we see where the Pharisee may be lurking within?
   The Pharisee never saw what were the true needs of his life and soul.  He fell into the deception of believing that the blessings of God mean the approval of God.  They don't.  Blessing, and the things that came along with it had become his idol.  That's where his eyes were fixed, and so, he was blind, unable to see the Father, and unable to see himself as he truly was.  The tax collector on the other hand, though likely, because of his occupation, wealthy, saw where true wealth and blessing lay, not in things that could be counted, but in a Father who loves, forgives, and gives, not because of his merit, but because of the Fathers heart.  The Pharisee's heart was closed, as were his eyes.  He knew nothing of true thanksgiving.  Do you and I?  What is our life really?  Dependent on His blessings, or dependent on Him?  Do the matchless blessings He has given us, and above all, the blessing of life in Christ, release within us a humble, broken, sense of gratitude for a gift we never deserved, or, a spirit of entitlement, glad for the blessings, seeing them, counting them, and all the while missing Him?  Where lurks the Pharisee within?

Pastor O 
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   May 2019   
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