For this stage of the Spiritual Disciplining process, I have been slow-rolling Step Five to give those prior elements of commitment a chance to take effect. Now though, especially since I am preparing to preach on Luke 18: 9-14, it is time for us to do a check on our motives.
For a quick run down on the story from Luke, Jesus describes two men and which of them is justified. Both men kept separate from other people in the house of prayer, but they did it for totally different reasons.
The Pharisee kept himself separate because he was too good and did not want to get sullied by others, Not only that he elevates himself before the throne of God for the things he is doing: fasting twice a week, when the requirement was only once per year and tithing 10% of everything he has instead of just the required 10% from his income/crops etc.
The Pharisee, much like David in Psalm 26, has a lot to say about others and why he avoids them. The difference between the two is David recognized he was a sinner just like those others and utterly reliant upon God to forgive him, no matter what he might do. David did not elevate himself before the throne.
In contrast to the Pharisee, who by all appearances would be the pinnacle of faith and belief in our modern churches today, Jesus introduces us to another tax collector. This tax collector is the lowest of the low, using his position for gain and impoverishing his fellow man. This tax collector will not even lift his eyes from the floor and beats his breast because he recognizes he is a sinner in need of mercy.
The tax collector keeps away from others not because they are not good enough to be near him, but because he is so bad and ashamed of himself, he does not want to be near others.
We see two people standing in a house of prayer, before God.
The Pharisee elevates himself and shows how good and great he is and worthy of eternal life based on his own efforts. The tax collector on the other hand sees how good and loving God is and how terrible he is in comparison and that he is utterly without hope, without the mercy of God. In the one case, a man elevates himself before God and in the other the man seeks mercy knowing he cannot compare to the greatness and majesty of God.
All of that being said, this is a good chance to check our motivations. Are we reading the Bible and keeping track of it so we can flaunt how faithful we are to reading the Bible? This is how easy it is to get caught up in ourselves. I caught myself two days ago saying to Stephanie, “I have read the Bible twice since we have been here…”Why would I say that except to elevate myself, still a fool.
Do we pray and keep track of our prayers so we can demonstrate how faithful we are to pray to God? Do we discuss the length and time and dedication to prayer to lift ourselves up in the eyes of others because we are so spiritual? Or do we pray because God is worthy of our praise and He is worthy of our time, and He is faithful to our requests?
Does our notebook glorify God, or like the Pharisee is it glorifying us? I am confident you get the point.
This stage in the process is one we have to keep in mind at all times, why am I doing what I am doing and are my motives true or t=do they glorify myself? If we are doing “Christian” things to glorify ourselves before God, we have missed the point of the relationship with God afforded to us by the sacrifice of Jesus.
Our reason for keeping a journal, praying, and reading the Bible consistently and faithfully is not to quantify how righteous we are before the throne or in comparison to our fellow believers and/or non-believers. The point of the Spiritual Disciplines is to strengthen our relationship with God, not to give us quantifiable data to compare ourselves to other sinners.