Devotional: A Pharisee or a Disciple?
When my sisters and I were younger, we loved The Saddle Club. For those of you who did not raise or hang out with horse-obsessed young girls, The Saddle Club is a series of books written by Bonnie Bryant (later turned into a TV Show) about three girls who went on wonderful adventures with their horses. My sisters and I decided that we were each a member of The Saddle Club and formed our own club, complete with our own club house. At the time, we were boarding our horses at a farm in Waldorf and our club house was an old wash stall in the back of the barn. It was a modest abode, but we didn’t mind. What we did mind, however, was our little brother trying to hang out with us in our sacred club house. So, we devised a plan. On one of the posts in the wash stall, there was a ring to tie your horse up while you hosed them down. It was tall enough that there was no way Levi could touch it. So, we made it a rule that the only way you could enter the club house was to reach up and touch the ring. I know what you’re thinking - our political system may have been a bit flawed, but it was a quick solution to our problem. That is, until Natalie announced that she couldn’t quite touch the ring either. There was no rule about having to jump to touch the ring… So, Miranda and I practiced with Natalie until she could just barely jump high enough to reach it on the post. At last, victory was in our grasp! That is, until our mom found out…
While you may be thinking that we were not very nice children, the worst is yet to come. In many ways, I still do this to the people in my life. In Luke 5:30, it says: “And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’” (ESV) As I read this, I heard my own voice casting the judgement of the Pharisees on people I am called to love. I judge by setting standards that I know I can meet so that I can compare myself to others and not feel belittled. Or I focus on the things that I do well, omitting the things that I struggle with, to feel better about myself and my performance. Why do I do this? Why am I so desperate to be “better” than those around me, even when it means that I forsake loving them? Why do I find myself being a pharisee instead of a disciple of Christ?
As Pastor Barry said in his sermon on Sunday, if our salvation is in anything other than Christ, we will either become enslaved to it or it will eventually lead us to death. My desire to compare myself to others and place my salvation in my performance is death. But praise be to God that we have hope in Christ! Jesus’s response to the Pharisees who asked Him why he was eating with tax collectors and sinners was this: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32, ESV) Because of Christ’s saving work on the cross, not only do I have no need to compare myself to others, but there is nothing there. Whether by my own judgement, I am better or worse than someone else, it has no affect on me because I am not saved by my works or performance – I am saved by grace through faith as a gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV) When I am able to rest in this truth, I am freed from the need to judge others to improve my own standing with the Lord. Through the recognition of my own depravity and the atoning grace of Jesus, I am able to love others instead of casting judgement as the Pharisees did.
While I wish I could say this is something that I have figured out, I don’t think that will ever be the case for me this side of heaven. But as I walk with the Lord through the process of sanctification, He gently and lovingly draws me closer to Him by showing me where I need more of His grace in my life. Is this an area where you need more of God in your life? Take heart, brothers and sisters, that there is no need to compare ourselves to others or set standards that make us feel better, because the only standard that could ever save us has already been met by our loving and gracious savior – Jesus Christ. In Him, we have salvation and eternal life and can love others as He has loved us: free of comparison and judgement; wholly with compassion and grace.