Do you know this woman? You see her on Sunday morning and she always has on a smile. She serves in several ministries, always makes the best dish for the church potlucks and seems to have marriage and parenting all figured out. When she prays, she uses all the “right words” and always has some spiritual wisdom to share during Sunday school. From an outside perspective, she seems like the ideal Christian woman. And, if you are being honest, you find yourself a little envious. Then one day you are talking with her and makes a disrespectful dig about her husband or maybe begins to gossip about another woman in the church and you are caught completely off guard. The more she talks, the more self-righteous she gets and you find yourself wondering if she is really as “nice” as she seems.
Do you know this woman?
Have you been this woman?
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”LUKE 18:10-14 ESV
We read this passage and immediately want to condemn the Pharisee and separate ourselves from his character insisting that we would never be so callous and judgemental. But are you sometimes more like the Pharisee than you are willing to admit? I am.
Though we often paint the Pharisees in Jesus’s time as the “bad guys,” they were originally the “nice people” of the day. They were the religious people that seemed to have it all together. And our churches today are FULL of “nice people” who are comparing themselves to their fellow Christians, feeling like they are holier – not because they don’t sin at all, but just that their sins aren’t as bad as others.
They have “nice people sins.”
What are those exactly?
It is any sin where you can point to some other sin that is worse to make yourself feel better.
Do you gossip or complain about another person? Well, at least you aren’t openly criticizing them where they could get their feelings hurt. Right?
Do you quietly harbor bitterness and resentment towards another person? Well, at least you aren’t openly arguing and causing division. Right?
Do you read romance novels (i.e. “mommy porn”) or watch movies and tv shows that involve nudity and sex? Well, at least you are not reading/watching actual porn or, even worse, having an affair. Right?
But God does not see it that way at all.
God sees all sin and just that…SIN. And, as the perfect and righteous Judge in Heaven, He cannot be around it. It is only here on earth that we create different levels of sin. God is grieved over our “nice people sins” just as much as He grieves over murder and sexual immorality.
Proverbs 6:16-19 says that He hates pride (Been there.), a lying tongue (Done that.), and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans (Does manipulation count? Ugh! Busted!), feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers (Gossip definitely counts! Guilty once more!!).
When we sugarcoat our sins, we are just like the Pharisee in the parable and we are not fooling God. It is not that we cannot see sin in others and help them repent and change, but we must be careful we don’t fall into the trap of believing we are not “as bad” ourselves. It is only through constant self-examination, prayer, and accountability that we can truly be effective in discipling others.
This comparison of sin is a slippery slope that never ends up where you want it to. It only leads to self-righteousness & judgment, unforgiveness & broken relationships.