Kingdom Principle: Forgiveness & Humility clear the way for justice.
The worthy receive justice, and the worthless receive truth.
|Joel 2:23-32||Psalm 65||2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18||Luke 18:9-14|
In the blog up to this point– I have not laid a foundation of our personal human worth – so consider this a preface to the lectionary Scriptures today –
Human worth begins in our being made in God’s image. (Gen. 1:26-27) We are created beings, fearfully and wonderfully made, and all the days of our lives were written in God’s book before we were ever born, confirming God’s prior knowledge and plan for our lives. (Psalm 139:13-16, Eph 2:9-10) Therefore no human being is worthless, regardless of their actions. However not all humanity has been made worthy. God’s has chosen his children to be for the praise of His glory, and that we have an inheritance in heaven with Him. (Eph 1:4, 13-14) This brief intro is intended to bring forth the value and worth which God sees in us, as well as establish that our worth is based on what God has done for us. (Romans 5:8) Our worth does not come from things we have done for ourselves, nor have we earned or deserved them. (Even justice as we saw last week is not deserved because we earned it – rather it is due us because the law of God established it.) This is why Christians joyfully proclaim “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. What is worse than simply being sinners, is that we “were dead in trespasses and sins”. (Eph 2:4-9) There is no worth in that which is dead. For this reason God imputed (gave to us) His own righteousness not because we were worthy of it, but because we were unworthy, unlovable, and unable to make ourselves worthy in any way. (2 Corinthians 5:21) But , because of this act and God’s love for us (John 3:16) – we now have infinite worth.
Therefore, we can conclude that our worth is not really of the “self” at all; rather, it is worth given to us by God. In fact apart from God we remain in an unworthy state of being. (Romans3:23) The truth is that this does not make us worthless – rather like an empty soda can that is not recycled – it has worth but it must be redeemed. This value and worth is given and established by God because of the price He paid to make us worthy—the death of His Son on the cross. It is only through the blood of Jesus that our lives are filled with worthy and are fully redeemed. (1 Cor. 15:10, Acts 20:28)
To conclude, our self-worth which is too often based on what other people tell us about ourselves it truly of no worth at all, The one, true authority on our self-worth is Jesus Christ, and since He gave His own life up for us by dying on a cross, that should tell us just how valuable we really are. Now to the Lectionary This week:
We see in today’s text there is a great variance between Self-Righteousness (which looks holy on the outside, yet is hollow on the inside) and receiving the Savior’s Righteousness (which may leave you with holes on the outside, but is hallowed on the inside).
I am convinced that a life filled with Thanksgiving is a mark of Christ in you. And yet, the Pharisee this week is represented as one who is thankful, but is missing the gift of justification as Christ is longing to give it. His self-worth is high, but he remains un-redeemed in the eyes of Christ. So again we return to the fact that actions are not enough when the attitude is not matched with the love of Christ. The Pharisee is thankful that God is good and that his life represents God’s goodness. The works of his life demonstrate his devotion and dedication to God’s law, therefore he is especially aware of how good he is when compared to how bad it could be if his life looked like that of the tax collector. This is contrasted by the tax collector who declares that his life is a mess and he is deserving of judgment, yet it is his desire is to seek the mercy and grace of God to that he might be redeemed. For the Pharisee, he is already convinced that his own righteousness is complete in his works. This error is not as easy to see in ourselves as it is in others.
One key to seeing this in yourself clearly is to walk in humility. Humility is at the edge of the Kingdom. Humility comes as you steward your sufferings. If you lack stewardship of suffering – you will lack awareness of your need for God. If you lack stewardship of your relationships you will lack awareness of your need for others. While the Pharisee lacked these – he did not lack the stewardship of resources. Therefore he did enjoy the returns of this world. The Pharisee is receiving his full reward. (Matt 6:5) Paul models stewardship on all fronts. As the end of his life is drawing near, there is no bitterness, regret or resentment. Whether the metaphor is a fight, a race or keeping the faith, Paul seeks only the Lord’s approval and the Lord’s appearing. He holds nothing against those who bring him harm and caries no resentment for his sufferings. This again is the mark of humility. This attitude is one of having no shame, based not in pride but in deliverance. Again the tax collector’s hope is deliverance which frees him from his shame. By contrast Pharisee as well has no shame, but this is rooted in pride and elitism – this is rationalization of life in comparison to the world. The tax collector’s removal of shame is based in revelation.
Forgiveness and Humility build one’s worth. Forgiveness as addressed above is the initial act of accessing worth. It is a gift of grace. Humility is grown through our actions of stewardship and our willingness to forgive others. A humble life anchored in receiving forgiveness removes the shame that can decrease or negatively affect our acceptance of worth granted by Christ. Shame prevents us from seeking the justice which is to be granted by God. Justice must be sought, and as we learned last week will only be done by those who know grace and mercy. Knowing grace and mercy will yield a life of forgiveness and humility such that justice will flow freely.
Let’s look at what modern-day Pharisees’ look like:
First – they don’t seek justice – for they don’t think there is any need for it. They have been focused on their own righteous deeds rather than the righteousness of God our Savior. Justice is based on what is due where an injustice is be leveled against you or it is the desire for judgment against sin. If we don’t see our sin, and at the same time consider ourselves to be better than others – justice is already being served.
Second, they don’t seek forgiveness – for their awareness of others sinful behavior is greater than their own. Jesus deals with this greatly in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7) Modern-day Pharisees focus other’s shortcomings, and their own actions of holiness that must be upheld. Therefore the focus is on calling out others sin so that it does not contaminate them, which requires maintaining isolation and distance in order not to compromise their “holiness”.
Therefore – Bitterness fills their bones, rather than humility filling their heart. Anytime a sinner is justified, the focus for the Pharisee is on what should have been deserved. (Bitterness begins with a should list.) This is a win-lose mentality. In order for the Pharisee to win – the tax collector must lose. However those who exalt themselves will be humbled, while those who humble themselves will be exalted. If both individuals were to walk in humility the Pharisee will enjoy greater exaltation for he will enjoy favor based on the fruit of faith (not earned) and justice based on the righteousness of God (not earned either). Yet, as it is, the Pharisee does not enjoy either, for he seeks to earn God’s favor through works-righteousness, and never seeks justice for it is already served. This leaves the Pharisee to enjoy this life, which he does,(based on the stewardship of resources) but constantly aware of the joy found in others which is beyond his reach. When the modern-day Pharisee looks at others lack of effort and work, but sees their joy in deliverance, bitterness set’s in. The only way to break from bitterness is through thanksgiving which is anchored in humility (mercy) and forgiveness (grace).
How to be set free…? Embrace God’s willingness to pour out His Spirit on all people. Joel is a prophet of humble status – this is the only text of all three years lectionary, we don’t know when it was written, nor who he really was… And Joel exalts the female servant to be on par with the elderly sage who is a man is beyond the comprehension of most as they both are to receive the Spirit. May we be released in this life from the need to have our expectations met. May we seek only the Cross of Christ to be our rule and judge. At the foot of the cross my we find mercy and grace such that we enjoy the forgiveness of God much more than any justice that may be served on our behalf.
A man should carry two stones in his pocket. On one should be inscribed, ‘I am but dust and ashes.’ On the other, ‘For my sake was the world created.’ And he should use each stone as he needs it.