(Luke 18:11) "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men . . .
One day two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a proud Pharisee, a deeply pious man who did all the right things but for all the wrong reasons. He compared himself with sinners he knew and thanked God he wasn’t like them. He looked over his shoulder at the back of the Temple and despised a spiritual low life that was praying on the back row. Twice a week he fasted, and he never forgot to tithe.
The other man was a dirty rotten tax collector. He was sellout. He had the audacity as a Jew to work for the Roman government in collecting taxes. He was a social outcast. Nobody liked him, but he had money in the bank and his wife wore nice clothes. What was he doing in church? He was praying for mercy. He had come to a place in life where he was deeply remorseful for his past deeds and wanted to make it right with God.
One man was an aristocrat. One man was a rat. One man was haughty. One man was humble. One man was refined. One man was repenting.
It is interesting how people can have different motivations for being at church. We can approach the whole religious experience as a way of keeping up appearances or confessing our lack of innocence. We can come in judgment and leave condemned or we can come mortified and leave justified. We can make a good show and look down our nose or we can crawl in the door and then leave restored. Why? Because the church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners.
Some believers are Christian aristocrats. Nothing is good enough for them. They are spoiled and want everything perfect. They find fault in other believers. “He’s a nice guy, but . . . ” They find fault in their church. “The music is too . . . the preacher should . . . if only I could . . . ” They are the upper class that love to fuss. They sit on their throne and pontificate. They think they could do better so off they go and write a letter. They don’t agree so that gives them liberty to slander, stop tithing, and eventually leave the church. But they wander and flounder and deserve every bit of misery they have earned.
But remember there was the other man. Don’t you want to be like him? He beat on his chest because he knew he wasn’t the best. He eyes looked down and he wore no crown. He’d be the kind of guy who would see the problem and be part of the solution. If he saw a fault he would halt . . . and pray. If he got cornered by an aristocrat at a potluck he would excuse himself for more chicken. If he saw a need he would jump in and do what he could. For he knows that nobody is perfect, and no church or ministry is either. We are a bunch of sinners saved by grace that Jesus purchased on the cross and cleansed by his blood. We are that . . . not Christian aristocrats.