Pharisees and Tax Collectors

I remember sitting in Sunday School back home sometime around my freshman year in college. I remember talking about loving our enemies.

The teacher asked, directing the question at no one in particular, “Do you pray for your enemies?”

Immediately, a few particular people came to mind, and these people had really hurt me. (Christians who spent their time making me feel like scum and judging me for not being exactly like them.) As it turns out, I had been praying for them. I said, “Yes.”

The teacher, who has always believed me to be only a kind, lovely person, smiled and replied, “Carrie, you’re not really helping my example. When you pray for them, what do you pray?”

“I pray that they would see how wrong they are.”

Not that God would open all of our eyes and reveal His truth and His heart to us. Not that He would heal them that they may heal others and not harm them. Not that God would help them or bless them or fill their lives with hope and peace and love. None of that.

I wanted God, who can do anything, to show them that I was right and they were wrong. My prayers sounded exactly like those of a five year old.

Part of it was that I legitimately wanted them to learn that their actions were both unbiblical and hurting people. They intended to help God’s Kingdom but were actually having the opposite effect. But I think more than that, I wanted a heartfelt, genuine apology from them without having to make the first move in order to get one.

My deeper understanding of the situation and the hurt I felt led me to a place of bitterness, judgment (Isn’t that ironic?), and arrogance.

In Luke 18:9-14, we find Jesus talking to people who have rode in on their high horses. He tells them a parable of two men at the temple, one a Pharisee and one a tax collector. The Pharisee thanks God that he’s not like other people and tells God about all the things he does for Him. The tax collector, who couldn’t even bring himself to look up to heaven, asked God to be merciful to him, the sinner that he was. Jesus says in verse 14, “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” (NRSV).

If our prayers consist of comparing ourselves to others, they’re wrong from the start. God understands our hurt and all of the side effects of it, but it’s a different thing altogether to bring a third party into our relationship with Him.

No matter how much harm they’ve done to you, don’t look down on others; God loves them too. They’re made in His image too. Don’t judge them because they’re living their lives differently than you live yours.

It’s really a matter of getting over ourselves. We always hear about how God loves us; if He had a wallet, our pictures would be in it; if He had a fridge, our drawings and report cards would be up there for everyone to see. And it’s all true. It’s all incredibly true. But what we don’t think about is how God loves everyone that much. He loves the rude man at the DMV just as much, the stupid woman at work just as much, and the family member who is always on your case just as much. And He loves your enemies just as much as He loves you.

He doesn’t love them for the damage they do. He loves them in spite of it.

And before you get mad about it, remember that He loves you in spite of a lot of things you do. We’ve all thrown proverbial punches in our time. Remember that while it’s not fair, that we all have been thankful for how much God’s grace overrides fairness. To ask for fairness, we’d be giving up a lot that we actually want.

Your relationship with God regards only you and God. While He cares about our spats and cuts, He wants to heal and help, not play referee in the little games we create and find ourselves in. Praying for your enemies to prosper will change your outlook towards your enemy and possibly their outlook towards you. You’ll be leaving any vengeance and consequences up to God. We need to stop putting people down and stop looking down on them. Being hurt or being conceited doesn’t make someone better than anyone else.

By Carrie Prevette

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The Problem of Pride

Sunday morning was arguably the most I’ve ever felt like a rock star, contending only with my college graduation. On Sunday, Alan put in a really great word for this blog, which was met with a lot of applause and cheering.

I was overwhelmed by the response. I’d like to take a moment to thank you, the reader. Whether you’ve been following me from day one or you’re reading this for the first and perhaps only time, this blog would not exist without you and people like you. I would’ve given it up a long time ago.

I know I’ve thanked you guys before, but I honestly can’t thank you all enough. I receive the kindest feedback and compliments all the time – people who tell me they needed it, people who’ve told me I made them cry in a good way, people who say they’ll pass it along because they know someone who’ll enjoy it. And I’m alternatingly thrilled and shocked that I can brighten someone’s day or help somebody out like that. So thank you for letting me have the opportunity to do so.

In addition, writing this blog allows me to discuss God and His immeasurable love and to write, all of which I love to do. Truthfully, this blog is the one and only way I get to use my English degree (which you may or may not think I actually earned depending on how many typos and errors you catch). Thank you for enabling and encouraging me to continue doing what makes me happy.

I’m very thankful that Alan preached on pride after the lovely things he and everyone else said about this blog and me because if he hadn’t, it would’ve gone straight to my head. I can guarantee that with 128% certainty. I’m thankful that God used Alan to put me in my place before I had time to leave it.

Pride is a problem.

It’s no secret that pride isn’t at the top of God’s list of Most Desired Qualities. There are many Bible verses about pride and how uncool it is, some of which Alan read/discussed Sunday. (I encourage you to listen to his sermon via the church website, abstractchurch.org, if you’re interested.) My personal favorite verse concerning pride is Proverbs 16:18. The NLT translation phrases it, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”

Pride wouldn’t be that big of a deal if no one had it, but we all suffer from it in some form or capacity. If you deny it, you’ll more than likely do so in a prideful tone that will indicate that you’re also a liar.

Pride is slow and silent, making it hard to see and fight against in our own lives.

The odds are against us from the start. We’re used to having to build ourselves up and put only the best things out into the universe to get ahead.

Need that promotion at work? Come in early, stay late, boost numbers, be meticulous, and be quick.

Want to look trendy or stylish? Earn lots of money to spend on achieving and maintaining the look you want and hardly ever deviate from it.

Want to be adored by everyone? Be relatable, but never put yourself in a position to seem inferior. Allow room for a little sympathy. Hold opinions, but be subtle about it, and don’t come on too strongly.

We’ve been taught, trained, conditioned to believe that constantly being in situations that fill us with pride, turning us into a generally proud person, sends us on a path to greatness.

And yes, it is great to be in outstanding situations. Being awarded, promoted, or recognized is fantastic. But what is a reflection of a great life is who gets the credit in those situations.

There’s nothing wrong with thinking that you’re awesome so long as you know and admit that God is infinitely more so. The real question is: when someone tells you how awesome you are, do you want to high-five yourself or do you want to high-five God?

Pride makes us all about us when we should be all about God. It’s ridiculous when you consider it. If something good happens, is it because of us – the ones who are just doing whatever it is we do – or God – the One who made us, who put us where we are, who directs us – that should be thanked and be praised? Pride makes us think we’re better than we actually are. Slowly, a pedestal grows beneath us. We think we’re so important. We talk about ourselves a lot. Maybe we even become a little inconsiderate of others. The next thing we know, we see others down below us until God kicks the pedestal out from underneath us.

That’s the destruction and the fall. And it hurts. There’s no cushion below us to catch us and cradle us. We’re unprotected because we won’t learn otherwise. We won’t learn that it’s not all about us, that we’re not infallible, that we’re nothing on our own.

Losing your pride is a step towards a greater life because it shows God that you can handle great things. The more glory and credit you give to God, the more you magnify Him instead of yourself, the more you’ll find yourself in situations and circumstances to glorify God.

Pride can destroy many things and none more than your relationship with God. It won’t get you anywhere you want to be. Humility will only earn you favor with God and other people, and it will take you to such grand places that you’ll always get a chance to practice it.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S. – While writing this post, God reminded me of a comic strip I found over a year ago. It’s a pretty good reminder to stay humble. I actually printed it out and taped it up beside my desk when I found it. I’ve attached it below for you to see and keep for yourself if you want.

 

comicstrip1

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