Oct 28, 2019
Join us as we explore God’s ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
I remember throughout my military career going through my calendars searching for those events that would help me remember things I had done that I could list as accomplishments for my efficiency reports. I was never very good at keeping diaries or journals then. I'm hit and miss now when it comes to what I've done. But I would go through my calendars of ToDo lists and try to figure out what might appeal to promotion boards or schools or other entities that used those reports for different considerations.
I hated the process then, and I hate the process now. I'm delighted to be mostly retired and not have to worry about those reports anymore. Except I do. Every time I travel to another installation to help in the training of a medical unit, which I do part-time, now, I end up searching through those ToDo lists finding the good and the bad to create the reports that go to the clients I serve and the men and women who hire me.
It seems we never get away from evaluations. All through life, we find ourselves evaluated on something. Someone has something to say about our performance, our behavior, our personality, our wealth, our mood, something. No one is left alone without some evaluation. We all face the music, and we all probably dislike it to some degree or another.
Evaluations can be useful, though. They help us learn our weaknesses and give us opportunities to improve in areas we might not see in ourselves. They help us understand better the desires and directions our boss wants us to go instead of traveling in our own sometimes misguided ways. Evaluations can inform us in many ways if we let them.
Jesus gave such an evaluation in a parable. A parable is a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. I sometimes wonder if Jesus' simple stories were really stories or real events with unidentified people to protect the names of the guilty. Many of them are so true to life. I can visualize them happening then or today in our society.
Today, the one, in particular, I'm thinking of comes from the eyewitnesses Luke heard from recorded in chapter 18 of the gospel by his name. It goes like this:
18:9 He [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:
"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.'
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'
I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." (NIV)
Jesus draws an interesting comparison between the two. He talks about both of their prayers. The Pharisee tells God, "I've kept most of the 612 laws we've put on the backs of your people." If Jesus had told the story with the whole prayer, the Pharisee would probably list 600 of those 612 laws he had not broken. He was a ninety-eight percenter — top two percent of his class.
The prayer did not impress the Father according to his Son.
If I could paraphrase Jesus a little in debriefing the Pharisee after the long-winded prayer he probably gave, Jesus might have said something like, " Hey, bud. You're right. You're a two-percenter, but you got the position wrong. The Father put you at the bottom two percent, not the top. I hope you enjoyed listening to that beautiful oration you gave yourself because it got no farther than your own ears, according to the Father. And I should know, we're on pretty good speaking terms. Oh, and by the way, he gave me the grade book, and I say you just flunked the course. Sorry about that."
The tax collector, on the other hand, couldn't say he got anything right. He just knew he needed help if he had any chance at redeeming his filthy, sin-ridden soul. He recognized where he stood before God. The tax collector understood that no matter how good he tried to be, God was so much better, and we are so far from true righteousness that our only hope lies in his mercy. So he pleads for it.
Who gets the crown in the end? The guy the Pharisee never expected. The one who broke all the rules. The tax collector who couldn't even lift his face off the floor because he felt so unworthy to even be in God's temple.
But aren't the rules important? When you're a toddler and mom has to tell you to keep your hands away from the stove, or you'll get burned, the rules are important. When dad says, "Don't play in the street, you'll get run over." Rules are important. But Jesus summed up those 612 laws that crushed God's people in two simple commands. He told us to listen to him. All authority rests in him, not in the Mosaic Law. So do the two things he said to do. What are his two rules? Love God and love others with everything you've got.
If we could just catch his message and do those two things as his followers, what a difference we could make in the world. Oh, and that love others part, that means everyone. He said to go into all the world. I think that covers all races, all nations, all religions, all political parties, all. We are to love all. Do we have to agree with them? No, Jesus didn't, either. But he loved them. And as people saw the love in his heart and the love in his disciples, they wanted what they saw. It changed the world. What happened to us? We started hating this group or that group. We began demanding people follow our rules. We wanted everyone to act and talk and look like us instead of loving people and letting God handle the rest.
Sounds rather like that Pharisee's prayer, doesn't it? Maybe it's about time we who call ourselves Christian look in the mirror and ask ourselves, "Do I love others the way Jesus loves me?" If not, I have some work to do - on my knees.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV): Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™. Used by permission of Zondervan