At Issue Index   In Touch Index  September Index   Previous   Next

IN TOUCH WITH GOD    by Edward Heppenstall

Keeping Spirituality Alive SEPTEMBER 18


The Pharisees stood and prayed . . . God I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. Luke 18:11.

The Pharisee was a better man in terms of conduct. If we are to judge men by their works as we do trees by their fruits, the Pharisee was more to be admired for his religion. He was not lying when he said he was an honest man, a good moral person, that he fasted and paid an honest tithe.

The publican was a collector of taxes. This man was hired by the Romans who maintained little or no check on his activities, so long as he delivered the amount of revenue the Romans demanded. The system was open to abuse and extortion. The publicans were a despised and a hated class. They were regarded as supremely selfish and unclean because they had sold themselves to the Romans.

When we come to see the practical difference between the two classes, there is a lot to be said for the Pharisee. The lowly demeanor and self-condemning words of the publican do not lend grace to a dishonest life or any departure from the law of God. Yet the publican "went down to his house justified rather than the other."

Our Lord seeks to impress upon us the fatal danger of spiritual pride. The Pharisee claimed to be a better man before God. Therefore he was farther away from the kingdom than the publican. The text speaks against undue confidence when we are tempted to claim to be superior Christians. This Pharisee made himself, rather than God, the center of his life. He considered himself the measure of virtue and righteousness. Therefore he did not feel a need for God's grace.

The true Christian knows that whatever goodness he has, it is the gift of God. The church needs confident men and women, but confident in the sense that they know themselves to be redeemed by Christ alone. We all need Christian self-respect that is consistent with the life that Christ lives in and through us. Surrender and humility are a permanent and increasing attitude. Of ourselves we can do nothing.

At Issue Index   In Touch Index  September Index   Previous   Next