Built by Pastor Abidan Shah

BUILT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  One of my favorite TV shows from years ago is “Home Improvement” with Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. Tim is a family man who has a TV show on home repairs. He has a good knowledge of tools and general mechanics but he often forgets to follow directions, skips a step or two, and always tries to make some crazy modifications. Of course, his assistant Al Borland tries to warn him every time but he doesn’t listen. As a result, he is on a first name basis at the local hospital, not to say that his projects usually fall apart. We love to laugh at Tim’s many accidents and mishaps but many peoples’ personal and spiritual lives are no different. Because they forget to follow God’s directions, skip a step or two, and try to make some crazy modifications, they too find themselves in a mess. If you want to build a life that will stand on the day of judgment, you need to build on the right foundation and that foundation is Jesus and his words. We’re in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the wise and foolish builders. The message is titled BUILT.

Matthew 7    24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” 

Question: Are you a wise builder or are you a foolish builder? Are you building a life that will last? Are you only a hearer of the word or are you a doer of the word as well? Are you saved? Have you heard the gospel? Have you done anything about it?

Background: Before we dive into this parable, let me make a quick clarification. The parable of the two builders is found in both the gospels of Matthew and Luke but with minor variations. While Matthew focusses on 2 different building sites and the description of the weather, Luke focusses on 2 different building processes. I encourage you to go home and compare Matthew 7:24–27 with Luke 6:47–49. Same parable but different wording. Why is there a difference in the wording? It could be that Jesus gave the parable twice with two different emphases. Or, maybe the gospel writers were not trying to quote Jesus verbatim but simply trying to convey the gist of his stories. What am I trying to get at? Red letter bibles can be great but they can also be a little misleading. The difference between Matthew and Luke’s account of the parable is proof that the gospel writers sometimes put in their words what Jesus said and that’s okay. Now, back to the parable—24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them…”

Question #1. Who were the “whoever”?

Let’s back up to Matthew 5:1 “And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.” Primarily, Jesus was speaking to his disciples but it was in the hearing of the multitudes. In other words, the listeners were a mixed bag of committed, curious, conditional, and covert. To this group Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount:

  • He began by introducing them to the Kingdom Values (the Beatitudes)3 “Blessedare the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” and on and on. He reminded them that his disciples are to flavor the earth and illuminate the world: “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.”
  • Then he challenged them to a Higher Living–Matthew 5:20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He gave them the 6 Antithesis: You’ve heard it said…but I say to you. For example: Matthew 5     27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
  • After this, he told them to be Sincere. He warned them against hypocrisy and the temptation to parade their piety in public, especially in their giving, praying, and fasting—Matthew 6     3 “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” 17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” He even gave them a Model Prayer (Lord’s Prayer/Disciples’ Prayer) to go by—Matthew 6    9 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. 10Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
  • But, it’s not over. Next, he warned them against accumulating earthly treasures. Instead, Matthew 6:20 “lay up for yourselves Treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
  • He was still not done. Next, he reminded them not to stress and worry but to Trust and ObeyMatthew 6   31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
  • In closing, he told them—
    • Don’t be Judgmental (trying to look at the speck in your brother’s eye when there’s a plank in your own eye), 
    • Have Childlike Trust for good gifts from God (Matthew 7    9 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”)
    • Be Countercultural—Matthew 7    13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”,
    • Exercise Discernment—Matthew 7    15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits.”

This makes up the rock on which we are to build our lives.

Application: Is this your foundation? Are you hearing and doing what Jesus said?

Question #2. What are the “storms”?

We often think that the storms are the crisis we have in this life—relationships, finances, health, moral and ethical value shifts, etc. This may be but I don’t believe that’s what Jesus had in mind. How do we know that? Back up to Matthew 7    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Isaiah 28    16 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily. 17 Also I will make justice the measuring line, And righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place. 18 Your covenant with death will be annulled, And your agreement with Sheol will not stand; When the overflowing scourge passes through, Then you will be trampled down by it.”

Invitation: You may be able to withstand the storms of this life. Saved or lost both can. But, how about the storm that is coming on the Judgment Day? Will your house stand? Are you saved? Are you hearing and doing the words of Christ?

Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: “The best things in life are free.” True or false? True. How about “There’s no such thing as free lunch.” In other words, there’s nothing truly free in this life. Somebody has to pay for it. True or false? True. Which one is truer? Both are just as true. So also, when it comes to our salvation, it is a free gift. It doesn’t cost us a thing to be saved but it cost Jesus his life. No, you don’t have to pay anything for your salvation but salvation means that now you are a disciple of Jesus and everything you have belongs to your Master. Have you counted the cost of discipleship? In our series on the parables of Jesus, we will try to understand the cost of discipleship and that is the title of our message today–COST.

Luke 14     25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Question: Do you have an unfinished spiritual tower? Are you way over your head in a spiritual battle? Are you truly saved? Are you a disciple or just an uncommitted, wishy-washy fence-sitter?

Context:  How do you picture Jesus 2000 years ago when he came the first time? Do you see him as a solitary figure praying in the Garden of Gethsemane? Do you see him with his 12 disciples? Maybe walking through the fields or sailing on the Sea of Galilee? Maybe you see him sitting on a mountaintop with a small crowd seated on the side of the mountain preaching the beatitudes. Listen once again to verse 25 “Now great multitudes went with Him.” Can you picture that? Imagine walking with the huge crowds of people at the state fair. It’s overwhelming to say the least! Now imagine that ten times worse and everyone is trying to get to one person! Why were they following Jesus? Of course, some like the disciples were committed to him. They had accepted the call to discipleship but many had not. They were following him for Food (Walking/Talking Cafeteria), Miracles (Mobile E/R), and Preaching (New and Different). Jesus being God knew that and he stopped, turned around, and declared—26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Does it mean that we have to literally hate our family in order to follow Jesus? Of course not. In Greek, when influenced by Hebrew and the Old Testament, the words “love” and “hate” can mean “choose” and “not choose.” For example:  Malachi 1     2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” So also, Jesus wants us to pick him over any earthly relationship. By the way, this is not the first time that Jesus had made such a statement. In Luke 9 someone told him 57 “…Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air havenests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Illustration: My father’s testimony of leaving his family to follow Christ.

Application: How about you? Is some relationship getting in the way of discipleship? Why do you go to church? Will you sacrifice your spiritual life for friendship?

Something else in verse 27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” There is an immediacy to this call. It doesn’t mean that you follow flippantly. It means go now. Just like the passage from Luke 9 “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” and “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Illustration: Again, my father left that very night. If not, he would’ve stayed.

Application: What is keeping you from committing your life fully to Christ? Are you waiting for things to settle down? Are you waiting to have all your fun and then give what’s left over to God? Listen to what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12     1 “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”: 2 While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain.”

Now Jesus gives 2 parables to show what lack of counting the cost and following fully looks like: 

1. Tower Builder: We’re not told why the individual decided to build this tower. Maybe it was for agricultural purposes to watch over the fields or maybe it was for military purposes to watch the enemy. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this awkward unfinished structure is standing now in the front yard that does nothing. Now it is a monument to shame. Listen to verse 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” They were probably saying things like “Are you going to hang clothes on it?” “Maybe you can tie your goats in it,” or “You should sell it. Oh wait, you can’t move it, can you?” Why did this happen? Because he didn’t count the cost of building—28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—”

Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a tower going nowhere! Is that you? To give another analogy, they have these half-baked, soupy, uncooked, and unfinished Christian life.

2. King on a Warpath: Unlike the last parable, the consequence of failing to count the cost in this parable is deadly. This king thought that he was big and bad with his 10,000 soldiers only to find out that the other side had 20,000! You’re about to get a whooping! Again, why did this happen? 31 “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.”

Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a defeated army. After all these years of playing Christians, the promises in the Bible still don’t work. Unfortunately, people blame God for those defeats. Is that you?

Question: Have you considered the cost of following Christ? Are you willing to follow him in order to be saved? Some people may ask at this point—“Isn’t this works salvation?” Don’t misunderstand. Following Jesus is always the work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us. Listen to Philippians 2     12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

We need to rethink what we have believed about getting saved. Listen to Ephesians 2     8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.Are you willing to lay aside your old ways and step into the good works that God has prepared beforehand for you?

Invitation:  Are you willing to get saved? Are you ready to be a disciple? Maybe you are already saved but you haven’t become a disciple, today is the day. Maybe you are lost, are you ready to do it the right way and be his disciple right from the start.

Shrewd by Pastor Abidan Shah

SHREWD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Have you heard someone say “so and so is book smart but not street smart”? It means that a person has a lot of book sense but no common sense. Scientists and professors are known for that. I knew some professors from back in college who were brilliant when it came to books but clueless when it came to day to day activities. One was a genius in Physics but could not operate the coffee machine. Another one was a Math whiz but could not manage his money. So also, there are many Christians who are the “Good Book” smart but a failure when it comes to daily life decisions. They have a lot of spiritual knowledge but no relational and financial wisdom. Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is very different than anything I’ve ever preached. It’s on learning how to be “SHREWD” and that’s the title of the message.

Luke 16     1 He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 So he called him and said to him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. 10He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

Question: Parables reflect who we are in the story. Are you the wise steward or a foolish one? Have you been a good steward of what God has blessed you with? How are your finances? How do you see money? Do you use money or love money? Do you have the true riches in Christ? Are you saved?

Context: Previously in this series, you’ve heard me say that this parable or that is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus. Today’s parable is the most difficult parable of Jesus. The reason it’s so difficult is because on the surface it appears wrong on many levels. But, if we suspend our judgment for a little bit, it will begin to make a lot of sense. So, let’s review the story again: The steward has been fired for wasting his master’s goods but before he cleans his office, he decides to take advantage of his access to the financial records and pardons part of the debts that others owed to his ex-boss. Listen again to verse 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’” I did some math and that’s about 400-500 gallons of oil. This would take about 75 olive trees to produce and it would be the wages of an average worker for 2 years. That’s a lot of money! Again, verse 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’” Losing 20 measures of wheat would come to losing the produce of 20 acres of land. That would be equal to losing about 500 denarii. Again, that’s a lot of money! Also, these were just two examples listed but he did that with all his ex-boss’s debtors. Here’s a question: Why didn’t he just steal some money and goods? If he had been caught stealing, he would have been punished severely. So, why did he do this? He was doing favors on his ex-boss’s expense to cash in later when he would be jobless. In other words, he was using his ex-boss’s debt ledger to build friendships that he could call on in the future for help.

What was his boss’s reaction? 8 “So the master commended (epaineo = praised) the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly.” Why didn’t he call the authorities? What boss/owner in his right mind would do that! Keep in mind that this is just a parable, a made-up story given to make a point. The point was that the steward did not steal from his ex-boss. Instead, he made a clever decision to take advantage of his situation and make friends for a rainy day. This act even impressed his ex-boss! Just when you want to say that there must’ve been a misunderstanding in the wording, listen to Jesus’ conclusion—“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.” The Greek word for shrewd is “phronimos” which means insight and wisdom, sensible, thoughtful, prudent, and wise. The same word is also used by Jesus in Matthew 7:24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” What Jesus is saying is that lost people are wiser in using money than God’s people. 

Of course, people have tried to explain this point in more palatable ways. Some have said that Jesus would never commend such a behavior or commend lost people. There must be some misunderstanding. Nope. Listen to verse 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” In other words, Jesus was telling his listeners to use money to make friends so that when life does not go as planned, their wise investments would help them out. Again, some people have claimed that this could not be. Maybe, Jesus was simply using irony or sarcasm here. Listen to verse 10 “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the trueriches?” In other words, if you haven’t learned how to use money wisely, why should God trust you with his true riches. Keep reading—12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 

Now it begins to make a little more sense. Jesus was NOT saying—

  • God’s people should be more like the people of the world.
  • God’s people should use other people’s money to outsmart them.

Instead, Jesus was saying—

  • Learn from those sons of this world who use money to make friends.
  • If you don’t know how to use money properly, why should God trust you with his true riches.
  • If you claim to serve God, stop serving money. You cannot serve both. You will love one or the other.

Why did Jesus go through all this trouble to explain all this? 14 “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money (philarguros = fond of money), also heard all these things, and they derided Him.” There is the clue! The Pharisees loved money. The tax collectors and sinners used money to their advantage but the Pharisees were only lovers of money. Listen carefully: The Bible does not condemn money. It only condemns the love of money.Listen to I Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 2 Timothy 3    1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers…”

What happens when you love money? You begin to worship it. It controls your life. It dictates how you live. It decides your priorities. Of course, there are many lost people who love money and they destroy their lives chasing after it. But, unfortunately, many saved people do the same thing. They claim to know God but they worship money. They give their lives to chasing it and pierce themselves with many sorrows. They are money lovers. They condemn the rich (U-Haul behind a hearse) but many rich are not money lovers (most philanthropists)! To the contrary, the sons of light are money lovers:

  • Instead of teaching their children the proper perspective on money, they only teach them to love money.
  • Instead of focusing on relationships and investing to build them, they watch them fall apart and they blame the church or circumstances or even God.
  • Instead of finding true purpose in life, they only live selfish and self-centered lives.
  • Instead of investing in God’s eternal kingdom, they only live for the here and now.
  • Instead of being a solid testimony for Christ, they repel the lost world from the gospel.

Is there any wonder that God does not give his own any true riches? Is there any wonder that many of God’s people are living beggarly lives? Is there any wonder that many of God’s children are pierced with many sorrows? Is there any wonder that we are not winning the lost world?

Invitation: Are you shrewd? Do you love money or use money? Are you saved?

Justified by Pastor Abidan Shah

JUSTIFIED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Ladies, how many of you have ever locked yourself out of your car? How many of you have ever kept it from your husband? My wife is one of the smartest people I know but she has done it a few times. I gave her a long lecture one time about how she should check for the keys before she shuts her car door. I told her to be like me. I told her at length how a simple action like that can keep her from messing up someone else’s day (primarily mine). Then one day, not very long ago, I was on the way to visit someone at the Duke Hospital in Durham. Everything was going great until I got out of my truck in the parking garage. You know exactly what happened. I was not as concerned about being stuck. I was more concerned about Nicole finding out. So, I called Rebecca to bring me the spare key and threatened to kick her out of the house if she told mom. Of course, she didn’t listen. But isn’t that typical of us? We compare ourselves to the weaknesses of others in order to make ourselves look better than we are. God does not borrow our scales to measure us. He has his own standard of measurement and he measures us individually. We’re back in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector titled JUSTIFIED.

Luke 18     9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justifiedrather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Question: As you remember, parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are in the story. Are you the self-righteous Pharisee or are you the repentant humble tax collector? Do you often say things like “You always…and I never…”? If you are quick to claim that you are the tax collector, do you give yourself a pass because of “what you’ve been through”? Are you saved? Pharisee or tax collector, both have to come to Christ.

Context: The parable we just read is set in the context of prayer in the temple. However, if we think that its only about how we pray, then we are greatly mistaken. It deals with issues much deeper with serious implications. So, let’s begin by asking the question: Why did Jesus give this parable? Luke actually tells us in verse 9 “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” Luke gives us 2 negative characteristics regarding the people Jesus was addressing through the parable: 1. They trusted in themselves; and 2. They despised others. Who are these people? Again, the parable gives us the clue in the next verse—10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” You’ve heard me talk plenty about the Pharisees in this series. The Pharisees were part of a lay movement during the time of Jesus that believed in living a life of holiness unto God. They believed that it’s not just the priests in the temple who should live by high standards but all Jewish people should do the same. Hence, they practiced what’s known as the “Table Fellowship.” They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. They even had what has become known as the “Oral Torah,” a body of traditional materials (paradosis) that was handed down by the fathers. It contained the interpretation of the Pentateuch Laws along with some additional materials. They also gained the reputation of finding loopholes in the law to help the common people live a guilt free life. Most people respected them and even liked them. But, based on this parable, many of them had a self-righteous condescending attitude towards others. Jesus picked up on this. After all, he was/is God and saw their hearts.

Application: Have you ever talked to someone who had self-righteous condescending attitude towards you? Do you have self-righteous condescending attitude towards others? How do people feel when you walk away from them?

The other character in the parable is a Tax collector. I’ve talked a little bit about them in the series already but here’s a little more. The Greek word for them is “telones.” From this we get our word “toll collector.” The Romans had 3 different kinds of taxes: land tax, personal tax, and the customs tax. People hated taxes but the last one they really hated. This was indirect taxation. It involved the collection of tolls and duties at ports and tax tables by the city gates. You could get charged 2-5% of your merchandise. The way the rulers handled this was by subcontracting it out to the highest bidder. They would pay a set amount in advance and then whatever extra they collected was theirs. This is where the “telonai” would come in. They worked for a chief telones (Zacchaeus) and that’s how Jesus found Matthew. Something else, Galilee was not directly under Roman prefects. So, the tax collectors were working for Herod’s family. But, Judea (where Jerusalem was) was directly under Roman prefects (Pontius Pilate) and they worked directly for the Romans. The rabbis referred to them as robbers. If they ever entered a house, that house was deemed unclean. They were frequently grouped with the sinners and the prostitutes. They were looked down upon for taking advantage of their own people, especially the poor and the widows.

What’s amazing is that Jesus did not avoid this group. Instead, he went after them with the good news of salvation! Many began to follow him. You’ve heard of 2: Zacchaeus and Matthew. To him, they were the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost Son. They did not hide their sin or pretended to be self-righteous. They admitted being wretched sinners who were unworthy of God’s mercy. The Pharisees could not understand why Jesus would associate with this bunch! After all, they break God’s commandments, they take advantage of the poor and the helpless, and they lead others astray.

Application: Do you know some tax collectors? 

Don’t misunderstand: Jesus did not gloss over their sin. Matthew 5:43   “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you….46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Jesus did not condone them nor condemn them. He converted them. Why? Because they came to him with no self-righteousness. They were totally helpless. To the contrary, the Pharisees came to him to judge him and find fault in him. They came full of their self-righteousness. They refused to be helpless. They remained condemned in their sins.

Something else—Jesus being God also knew what the Pharisees were doing was no different than the tax collectors. Listen to Matthew 23     4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders…6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces…14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers….16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it….25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence…31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”

Application: Husbands, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your wife of? Wives, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your husband of? Do you realize that you have same gunk in you that you are accusing someone else of?

What’s the result? 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Something else: Even when it comes to our mistakes and failures, we give ourselves a pass by listing reasons why we failed. God sees everything and he refuses to forgive us our sins.

Old Principle: If you cover your sins, God will uncover it and, if you uncover your sins, God will cover it.

Invitation: How do you see yourself? Are you saved?

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