How often have you and I thanked God for our blessings? It’s a critical part of worship isn’t it? First we adore God for His character – all that He is in infinitude, eternality, omniscience and might. That’s a mouthful isn’t it? In other words when we praise God we remember He is so superior to anyone we know, unfathomable really in His wisdom, power and love!
Then we thank God for how He works among the people He has created, sustaining us by His powerful word (Hebrews 1:3). In many countries temporal blessings are so abundant that folks begin to think these are their right. Recently I’ve heard people saying no one can take away their rights. Have they forgotten those around our globe who don’t enjoy the same unalienable rights?
Why then have rights to life and liberty been denied so many people? It’s heart-breaking to see babies and little children who will never enjoy the practical sustenance we believe all children need. Doesn’t God care? Yes, He does. He has given us so much that if we shared a portion of it regularly with others, this world would be a different place. How sacrificially might we love others? When we say we love God how does that play out on the horizontal level, here on earth?
Jesus often talked in parables. One such story might relate to us today. A Pharisee stood up to pray in the temple. Notice his posture. Notice his attitude. “Thank God I am not like other men”! What was his perspective on other people? It was very negative. He would have made a great reporter in the twenty-first century. Look at our society – on the streets of our cities there are robbers, drunks, prostitutes, murderers, drug addicts, adulterers and those who cheat on their taxes. There are even crooks in government! (Luke 18:11). Surely I’m not like them!
He continued: “Look God at how good I have been, tithing and fasting regularly – twice a week!” Now to me that statement smacks of pride. Paul reminds people of faith that the universe was made by God (Hebrews 11:1). God asked Job where he was when He laid the foundation of the earth? (Job 38:4-7). Let’s keep our perspectives about God and man in balance. What impact can my fasting and tithing or any other good works have on the God who created all things? It’s like an ant bragging to me about building its anthill.
Just to keep us focused, Jesus contrasts the Pharisee’s prayer with the prayer of a tax collector – a man the Pharisee has just mocked. This man didn’t even raise his eyes to heaven, but “beat upon his breast and said ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ “ (Luke 18:13).
Which man do you think was justified before God? Looking at our world today, it’s shocking to see Christians caught up in what once might have been called a “worldly” perspective. I was told once by a professing believer, that God only wanted the best for me and therefore my old, ramshackle car was an affront to Him. I almost bought it!! However, I knew that God had provided me with a vehicle that got me where I needed to go, freeing me to share with others some of the wealth of this world that still remained in my pocket. This was my comfort in the face of ridicule.
One more lesson might be learned from this parable. Had the Pharisee forgotten that to judge others is a sin in the eyes of God? Along with his insatiable pride, he was as much a sinner as those he criticized. God could judge his heart, even if his life looked good on the outside. We who know God the Father intimately have the unalienable right and privilege to spread His love to those who have lost heart and hope. Just as God lifts us up when we are weary, so we must lift up others with words and deeds of encouragement. May God forgive us if we don’t!
Do I feel accountable to God for all that He has blessed me with?
Which man’s life does mine resemble?
How do others see me, and is it the same as the way God sees me?
Who might you view as society’s outcasts? Would you be willing to come along side them in love?