Saturday, July 11, 2009

Are You a Pharisee?

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Luke 18:9-14

Are you a Pharisee? Now at first you might be taken aback by this question. I know I would be if someone were to have asked me this! At least…that is until I discovered the truth. That yes, there is some degree of Phariseeism (I made that word up) within me. It’s an ugly truth to come to reckon with. In fact, I would rather tuck that truth away and move onto bigger things. But God won’t let me.

I think He won’t let me because it’s an issue that I am not alone in. It’s just that I have become recently aware of it. As of Tuesday, July 7th our family legally became a foster family. As you know for nearly two months we have been helping to take care of two children who were removed from the daycare that I work at. My boss had emergency temporary custody of them but we became their legal foster parents this past Tuesday.

I have had limited contact with the birth mother up until this point. Now I am going to be responsible for transporting them to their visits with mom three times a week. This has created an opportunity to be a witness to her. Well, at least that’s what I was thinking until God stopped me dead in my tracks and put the brakes on.

He began to show me that I couldn’t truly be a witness until I got rid of my Phariseeical (another word made up) attitude. You see, even if my life reflects Christ, the way our family lives, the choices we make, the love we offer…it will all mean nothing if I continue to think the thoughts that I have thought.

It has been quite easy to look down upon this birth mother. After all, she is the one who has lost her children and I know of the reasons why. At first I felt anger about her choices, then I began to see that I was no better…I could just as easily have been in her position…it’s just that I came to know the Lord. I came to know His grace, love and forgiveness. She is not there yet.

Although this might be a more severe issue because she has lost her children, I think moms can easily fall prey to Phariseeism with other moms. We can look down upon other moms because they have not made the same choices. It might be that one has chosen to educate her children one way, we might not like another mom’s discipline methods, or perhaps we don’t agree with the way a mom runs her household.

I was recently participating in a discussion board exercise through an online class that I am taking. It’s a class about effective communication and the topic was regarding the roles we play. One of the students had commented how when she is out in public, in her role as a mother, she is more cautious. She has two small boys and fears what others will think of her. I think this is very common for mothers. But why do mothers have that fear of what others think? It could be that for some they aren’t strong in the area of confidence. But I also think it is because moms can be so critical of other moms.

I have preached for years that moms should not try to put on other moms what their family’s choices have been. We are all unique and we have been called to different things within our families. At the same time, I failed to recognize that even if a mom is doing something obviously wrong, who am I to criticize? Have I not failed in some way with my own children? God isn’t judging our mistakes as moms in different levels. This birth mother’s choices are not at a higher level of sin than my own. The difference is that I have the blood of Christ who covers my sins. I have a relationship with the One who forgives.

Who am I, or who are any of us, to think, “At least I am not like….” “At least I don’t…” Does it make me feel better to think I am more righteous? That is putting confidence in my righteousness rather than in the One who made me right with Him. I can spout off a list of all my achievements as a mother but can I also say that I have been perfect, that I have been sin free?

If I am going to stand any chance at being a witness in this woman’s life, I need to first let go of the Phariseeical attitude and humble myself. If you are going to make a difference in anyone’s life, especially someone who does not know the Lord, you must do the same. I Peter 5:5 makes it clear: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

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