Holier Than Thou
By Grant Phillips
“To what can I compare the people of this generation?” Jesus asked. “How can I describe them? They are like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t weep.’
For John the Baptist didn’t spend his time eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.
Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”
And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:31-50)
When I read this passage I am humbled because it brings out the hypocrisy in many who call themselves Christians. It is so prevalent in the churches today, and if we are truly a Christian, we need to stand before the mirror and ask, “Is it in me?”
I know the world is more and more critical of the Church, but sadly it is often justified. The world doesn’t understand that the Church is composed of broken people with broken lives who have come to Jesus because of the Good News. The world laughs at us because of our failures and it scorns us because of the haughtiness of some. Do we all fail at times? Yes. Are we all haughty? No, but this is the way we’re often seen for two reasons:
Some of us believe the Bible means just what it says, and will not bend on that issue, so we’re thought to be haughty.
Many in the local churches are just plain snooty.
Leaving category #1 by the wayside is not an option. Just one example: Jesus says He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Regardless of what anyone else says, I, and a host of others, will never bend on that. Jesus is the only way to be saved … period … end of discussion.
In the Scripture passage above Jesus was referring to the people of that time, particularly the Pharisees. Today, we have come full circle. There are many ‘Pharisees’ in the churches today.
Jesus made the point that John the Baptist did not spend his time eating and drinking and was said to be possessed by a demon. On the other hand, Jesus did spend time eating and drinking … with sinners no less … and was called a glutton, a drunkard and a friend to unsavory people; i.e. sinners. You can’t win with some people, because they have a Pharisaical mind-set.
Are there actually people in the local churches who think they are better than others? Unfortunately, the answer is “yes,” and it cannot be disputed. Sadly, it is often forgotten that we are all sinners, and but for the grace of God, we would all spend eternity in hell.
We must understand that God does not grade on the curve. Actually, there are no descending grades to be had. To pass, it is either absolute perfection, or total failure. Only one has ever lived on this earth in absolute perfection, with no stain of sin, and that is none other than the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Either we cling to Him, or there is nothing else to cling to.
All down through the ages there has been a bountiful supply of people who look down their self-righteous noses at others. Jesus talked about it. Paul talked about it. James talked about it. My goodness, it is seen all throughout the Bible.
The thing I love so much about God’s grace is the knowledge that when I die I won’t receive what I deserve, but I will receive what I don’t deserve. All the blessings of God in Jesus are mine because of nothing more than my putting my faith in Him. How could I ever be haughty toward another when knowing that?
Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15) and “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14)
Can I really keep His commandments, all the time, without fail? No, I cannot, but through His strength I will try, simply because he told me to, and because there is a new spirit within me that wants to. I often fail, but He has told me to confess my sins (1 John 1:9) and He will restore our fellowship and empower me to follow Him.
Many in the churches actually must think they rarely if ever fail keeping Christ’s commands, and in their self-righteousness, look down their long proboscis at others who don’t meet their expectations.
What did Jesus stress so much in His Word, the Bible?
1. Obey Him
2. Share the Gospel
3. Love others
Sometimes, these so-called “perfect” Christians look over the rim of their glasses with a condemning scowl. It’s no wonder that people who have made a mess of their lives don’t feel welcome in many churches. We, the Church, are not allowing Christ to live in us. Should we compromise the truth of God’s word? Absolutely not, but if Jesus is living in us, we will love others and show it by our actions. By the way, most people aren’t stupid; they can usually sense how we feel toward them.
It’s hard to persuade a person filled with pride to take a long look in the mirror and change. Look where it got Jesus with the Pharisees. A prideful person will look in the mirror and see perfection. His mind will simply be re-enforced of his grandeur and importance, and he will continue to feel himself to be a better person than anyone else.
Many of the Pharisees were proud of their Hebraic heritage, and even more proud of their supposed ability to keep the Law. Truth is, they weren’t keeping anything but their self-righteous, worthless arrogance fed. One of them asked Jesus, “Which is the greatest commandment.” Jesus replied with,
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
That holier than thou group of hypocrites had so little love for God, they crucified His Son.
Sadly there are people within the churches today who act just like those Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes of Jesus day. There are those so proud of their self-proclaimed religious mantle they have so elegantly draped over their shoulders, but like the Pharisees of old, where is their love for God, much less their neighbor?
“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14)
Because of their blindness Jesus said to them, “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24)
I have watched for many years, those with a Pharisaical mindset; try to run rough shod over weaker Christians. I have talked to those who have been so confused by the religious bullies, and they were in total despair from the browbeating they received.
Some are told they have to act a certain way, or dress a certain way, or do without certain things, or go to a particular church, or read a particular Bible version, and more; all this to be saved, and/or keep their salvation.
Others are shunned because they are poor, or alcoholics, or drug-addicts, or sexually immoral; in other words, simply from the wrong side of the tracks.
I wonder how many folks with an unsavory history will find that narrow gate (Matthew 7:14) before the self-righteous Pharisees of today.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” (Matthew 21:31-32)
It is no accident that Jesus talked so much against pride. Remember, that’s the very thing that brought Satan down.
Maybe we should preach the Word, the whole Word, without compromise, but with the attitude of, “I’m also just a saved sinner, saved only by the grace of God.”
Every Christian and that includes me, should stand in front of the mirror each morning and ask of God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
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