Superiority – Don’t You Look Down On Others
Do we as Christians have the authority to judge sin? This sermon takes a look at parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector and how it represents Christians today
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. – Luke 18:11 NKJV
There is something that must be said about the attitude of Christians nowadays. You have seen me speak out, recently, about the radical and extreme actions of those that proclaim to be Christians – somebody must speak out against those that proclaim Christ but are far from Him. Christians should be lowly, humble, meek, helpful to others, respectful of others, peaceful towards others, and full of love towards others – this is not something I am making up, but something commanded of all believers.
Yet, when I look around, I see some of the most vile and hateful things being uttered and said by those claiming to follow after Jesus Christ. I see people claiming to be believers of God, treating people with no respect and with absolutely no love – we must take a look at this today. Let’s focus today on how we think of others, how we feel about others, and how we judge others.
The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican
From Luke 18:9-14, we see Jesus tell the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. In the parable we come across two characters who go up to the temple to pray to God. We are first introduced to the Pharisee. This Pharisee thought very highly of himself; he was overly righteous due to how he practiced his religious ways. The Publican (tax collector) was seen, by the people, as a very evil person due to his job; people didn’t think very highly of this man and thought of him essentially as trash because he was a tax collector.
When they entered into the temple to pray, notice the action of both men. Both men went into the temple to pray at the same time (Luke 18:10). I want you to also notice that both of these men separate from one another and pray apart from each other (Luke 18:11, 13). Notice that Jesus says (Luke 18:13), the tax collector, standing afar off” – we will come back and touch on this in a little bit.
When the two man pray, notice what the two men pray for in their prayers – let’s look at this. The Pharisee (Luke 18:11) thanks God that he, the Pharisee, is not like the tax collector. Something certainly doesn’t seem right to be thanking God for that does it? He then brags (Luke 18:12) about his religious practices; he says to God, “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” In other words the Pharisee is saying that he is going above and beyond what is asked of him to do. Again, I say, something does not seem right about this does it? There is a lesson in prayer that can be taught from the Pharisee’s prayer that can be focused on in completely separate sermon – that’s for another time.
Let’s look at the tax collector. The tax collector could not even raise his eyes (look up) to heaven when he said his prayer. This man beats his breast and confesses or admits to the Lord that he was a sinner and asked for mercy. We would say that this man was humble, right? We would say that this man came to God lowly, right? We would think that this is how the Pharisee, a man who should have known better, would have come to the Lord.
I read this parable and I come up with a few questions that I must share with all of you. First question I must ask is, why did the Pharisee separate himself from the tax collector? You will say that the scripture does not say which man moved away from the other, but I would tell you that the Pharisee should have been there for the tax collector. The next question I would ask is, why did the Pharisee decide to look down on this man? If the Pharisee was capable of looking down on this man in his prayer to God, imagine how he looked down on this man outside of prayer. The third question I would ask is, does this Pharisee represent some Christians today?
Being the judge
To answer my last question first, I would answer yes – the Pharisee is very representative of many Christians today. The Pharisee is highly righteous; he is so righteous that he has chosen to judge the tax collector. There are some believers who actually believe they are supposed to judge their neighbors. The Lord tells us (Mark 12:30-31): “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Notice, the Lord does not tell us to judge our neighbor but commands us to love them!
We are even told not to judge. Jesus says (Matthew 7:1-2), “judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” If you judge somebody, you should expect that you will be judged according to the same measure that you have judged with. What I have noticed about Jesus’ teaching is that this is certainly true. I have also noticed that when you judge a person according to their logic that they don’t much like it in return – that’s very interesting to me. Yet, we choose to judge others and we will certainly judge their sins as well.
Do we have authority to judge others and their sin? We have no such authority but it does not stop us from judging others and their sin. We do exactly what the Pharisee was doing in this parable that Jesus spoke. The Pharisee chose to judge the tax collector and to judge sin. He says, “thank you I am not like other men.” He continued in saying, “thank you I am not an extortioner, unjust, adulterer” – these are considered sins. He finishes up by saying, “thank you that I am not as this tax collector.” This man believes himself to be perfect and without sin, but Paul said (Romans 3:23), “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Don’t you look down on others!
We, Christians, like to cherry pick the sins we like and don’t like. The sins that we don’t like we will bare down on, teach against, preach against, and even create laws against those sins. Homosexuality: we are constantly at war against homosexuality. Abortion: we can’t stand abortion – I get it. We can’t allow others to have their God given right to make their own decisions because decisions like that goes absolutely everything that we believe in. However, when it comes to drunkenness – we go mum. When it comes to fornication and adultery – we go mute, why? When it comes to telling lies we try to dress up some of our lies as being white lies.
We consider some sins to be smaller than other sins which we feel are incredibly large. Let me tell you something, there’s no such thing as a “big” or a “little” sin – all sin is sin! All sin is equal to one another in the Lord’s eyes! Jesus says (Matthew 12:31), “I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men.” There is no greater sin, like we like to think. Jesus continued (Matthew 12:31), “the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” The only sin the Lord will not forgive is speaking against the Holy Spirit – that is rejecting the Holy Spirit. To reject the Spirit means you have chosen not to accept the gospel of the Lord – Jesus, His deity, His death, burial, and resurrection.
So, who are we to judge others sins? We can’t determine who will be in heaven and who will be in hell. What authority do we have to judge somebody? You see, we don’t necessarily know every sin in the book. Not only do we not know every sin in the book, but we don’t know how to properly judge – we have biases that would prohibit us from being able to properly judge. This is what causes us to be very hypocritical when we try to judge others and their sin. This is why I am thankful that no man, woman, boy, or girl is my judge today! Don’t you look down on others!
The superiority complex we must delete, delete, delete!
We have a superiority complex. I have looked at the Christian body, and it is in my opinion that Christians have developed a very dangerous superiority complex. Christians have become overly righteous, just like the Pharisee. Christians have become overly superior, in their minds, just like the Pharisee. Christians must remove this complex from their mind. Who are you to judge others or to feel superior to others? Remember, we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God – no man is perfect!
Notice who Jesus told this parable to (Luke 18:9), He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others. These people were so righteous that they despised their neighbors. You should not be so righteous that you despise your neighbor, especially when you are commanded to love your neighbor. What would Jesus do? This will sound rhetorical but we must always keep in mind, what would Jesus do, and remember to be Christ-like. How did He treat others? We must learn that there is a great difference between judging and discernment – we can certainly discern right from wrong. We are not the judge!
God is the only one who can judge people and then judge their sin. The Lord has no bias towards anybody nor does He have a bias towards sin. Only the Lord is fully capable of determining right from wrong. God does not cherry pick the sin weHe “likes” or “does not like”. Let God be God and you be man/woman. Let God be the judge of this creations and you trust in His judgment! Your role is to simply trust and have faith in the Lord! This needs to be made more and more clear to believers, and those who proclaim to be a believer in the Lord. The work of God is to have faith in Him (John 6:29).
Don’t look down on others. The superiority complex is why we have so much division in the world and even in the church today. The superiority complex, the overly righteous in heart, causes nothing but division – it absolutely scares people away from the local church and from Christians today. To get back to the example the Pharisee showed us not to follow: he segregated himself away from a man he thought he was better than instead of helping a man he should have been there to help. The Pharisee should have joined the tax collector in prayer, and not be so pious to look down on the tax collector in his prayer believing himself to be better – that’s just not right. We should not cause divisions, as Christians, but should bring people together. Notice that Jesus says (Luke 18:14) that the tax collector was the one who as justified in his prayer, and the overly righteous Pharisee was unjust in his prayer. Let this be a lesson to us today.