Who do you depend on? Who is it in your life that is your ‘go to’? Where do you turn when you need someone or something?
As children, we depend on our parents or family members. In a lot of cases, parents are there to provide for their children and help them as they grow. As adults, we often find a spouse and we depend on each other. We may also have best friends that we look to. Many of us still look to our parents, even as we get older.
Ultimately though, there are a large number of people who will tell you that they depend on themselves. They don’t need anyone else. There is a notion that you should put yourself first because no one else will. Especially when others have let us down, we tend to just depend on ourselves. We are independent and self sufficient.
So, who is it that you depend on?
This morning, we are going to look at 2 men in the scripture. They are praying and they are both dependent on someone, but the one they are dependent on is quite different.
So, what is going on in this scripture? Two men are praying in the courts of the temple. One is identified as a Pharisee, a ruler in the law. The other is a tax collector, a lower status occupation in those times. Two different men from two different worlds, both praying.
We learn something about these men in their prayers. Let’s look first at the Pharisee. Try to look with me at these men, not through eyes of judgment about who is right and who is wrong. But, rather, just look at who they are. The Pharisee is a religious leader. He is doing the right thing. First, he is in the temple praying. He also talks about the other things that he does. He talks about fasting. He doesn’t just fast as the law tells him to. He fasts twice a week which is more than he was required. He also gives a tithe. He doesn’t give a tenth on certain parts of his income, but on it all. He is going above and beyond. These are good things. He also takes the law, the Torah, very seriously. Unlike some of those around him who have no regard for the law, he is doing it right.
In looking at the tax collector, he prays quite a different prayer. He is separated and is looking down. We know he is praying and feels submissive because he is lowering his eyes and beating his chest. He is asking for mercy. We know he is a tax collector which is seen as the lower class. However, we don’t know that he is particularly wrong in what he does. He could have been a tax collector that just did his job. Don’t immediately assign ‘sinner’ to him. He could easily represent the average person.
The difference is not in the men. They are both God’s creation. The difference is not in their occupation. God has called them both to follow. The difference is not in one being better socially. God doesn’t have a social system as we created in this world. When you are a child of God, you are a child of God.
The difference is who they depend on. The Pharisee is doing the right things. He is getting the process right. But, he is depending on himself. He is comparing so he feels justified. He doesn’t need anything from God. He has the law under control and he has himself under control. He isn’t doing the ‘wrong’ things so he has it all together. It would seem that the Pharisee doesn’t need God at all except to hear how good he is.
The tax collector, on the other hand, is dependent on God. He is asking for mercy. He recognizes that he falls short of what he is suppose to do. That doesn’t mean he is a terrible person. It means that he doesn’t always get it right and he recognizes that. He is being humble and recognizing that he can’t do this without God. He is justified by his position or by his good works. He is justified by God.
Jesus recognizes the tax collector because of his humility. He is justified by God and not by his works. The difference is that when the tax collector depends on God, God takes care of him.
Who do you depend on? We could easily be the Pharisee and look at what we do for justification. We could look at the good things we have done. We could show where we have accomplished good things for the Lord. We could easily find ourselves looking to ourselves and feeling good about all of that without ever recognizing that God is the author of it all. We could do lots of good things, but until we humbly come before a mighty God, those things don’t amount to much.
God is the only One that is full of justice and mercy. His love endures forever. Who do you depend on?