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.”
Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)
The Christian culture loves to compare themselves to people and look down on anyone who repeatedly does what they disagree with. But when those Christians are called out themselves, many times they form excuses.
“Well, we’re human, so we can’t help but sin” is a fun excuse people use. “I’d feel convicted if it was a sin” is another. Both are wrong. But there’s one that just infuriates me.
“Well I didn’t take it as far as this person.” “So-and-so did this so I’m pretty ok.” “The culture says sex and drugs are the way to go and I’m not doing that, so I’m ok.”
Anything compared to that directly contradicts the message of the Gospel, and it directly contradicts what Jesus said in the Parable I’ve copied above.
By saying we’re “less sinful” than someone, and, even if it’s true, using that to justify our own sin, we’re really just exalting ourselves. We’re just like the Pharisee.
To be honest, Christian culture looks a lot more like the Pharisees in scripture than I ever realized. People in today’s Christian culture have made up all kinds of rules to supplement the laws in the Bible. People in today’s Christian culture flaunt their Christianity, not to point to God as the source of their happiness but to point to themselves as really good people.
And how about this: we teach Christians not to spend a lot of time with non-Christians. I’ve even heard a sermon on how “Jesus didn’t hang out with sinners.” Guess we missed this bit:
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Today’s Christian culture, much like the Pharisees of old, is just that: a culture. It exists as a subgroup of higher people, a group of people exactly like everyone else in the world but they love Jesus, so they’re better. That’s the vibe many people outside of those circles receive from Christians.
Christians today are acting of the world but not in the world. They’re acting the same as the worldly culture while operating outside of it. They should be acting completely different from the worldly culture while operating inside of it. Just something to think about.