June 14 I Friday
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering round to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.’” —Luke 15:1-2
It is easy sometimes to think that we are a better Christian than someone else because “we follow the law and do not sin,” but is this the correct measurement for us to judge whether we are closer to God? As Jesus shares three parables in Luke 15, He speaks to two categories of audiences: the tax collectors and sinners listening on one side and the Pharisees and scribes grumbling on the other.
If we went to both of these groups and asked them, “Who are the spiritual ones here?” the tax collectors and sinners would say it was the Pharisees and scribes, and the Pharisees and scribes would say, “we are.” Every Jew knew that the Pharisees were the benchmark of righteousness. They were very disciplined and careful about the company they kept, food they ate, places they went, clothes they wore and how they tithed their money. Even Jesus acknowledged, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
If we asked both groups again, “Who are the spiritual outcasts here?” the Pharisees and scribes would answer it is the tax collectors and sinners, and the tax collectors and sinners would admit, “that’s us.” If we were to ask, “Who are the friends of God here?” both would say it is the Pharisees and scribes. And if we asked, “Who is the furthest from God?” they would both answer: the tax collectors and the sinners.
Both groups are in complete agreement regarding themselves. They all believed that “God cannot look on sin because He is so pure.” That is a slogan tossed around in some circles that we might be familiar with, which fortunately is not true. Paul tells us, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20).
God is closest to those who know their sin and furthest from those who do not know their sin. In this case, the ones who did not know their sin were the Pharisees and scribes and the ones who did know were the tax collectors and sinners. Every measurement they had as to who were the outcasts and the spiritual ones was completely wrong, because only those in sin know their need. As we consider our closeness to God, may we not measure it according to our works but in humility rest in the grace of God.
Prayer: Dear God, thank You for giving me grace to cover all my sins. Lead me to walk in righteousness and humility in this world.