A Texan drove into a gas station in the hills of Tennessee. He was wearing a big ten-gallon hat and fancy cowboy boots; he had diamond rings on both hands and was puffing a king-sized cigar. “Fill ‘er up!” he yelled at the attendant as he strolled inside. Sitting over to one side of the room on a keg was a Tennessee farmer. “Live around here?” asked the Texan. “Yep, the Tennessean answered, “that’s my place across the road.” “Oh, it is,” said the Texan condescendingly, “well tell me, how many acres have you got?” “Oh, about eighty acres, more or less.” “Only eighty acres?’ scoffed the Texan, well let me tell you about my place. Why I get in my car early in the morning and start driving in a straight line, and by noon I haven’t even reached the other side! Now, what about that?” “Yep, I know what you mean,” the Tennessee farmer replied, “I used to have a car like that myself.”
It is called by many titles, egotism, arrogance, pride, but the scripture calls it sin! Then there was the old fable of the frog who wanted to go south with the geese. They discussed the wonderful southern climate and the fall migration so much that the frog became obsessed with wanting to go. Now the geese liked him and wanted him to join them, but his abilities as a frog simply didn’t include flying. So, they put the burden on him by saying, “If you can figure out a way to go, we’d be delighted to have you down there with us.” The frog put on his thinking cap and eventually came up with a plan. He talked two of the geese into holding a stick between them in their bills. He clamped his mouth on the middle of the stick and they took off. It worked! They began flying down, and they were doing great; but several other geese flew by and one observed, “My, isn’t that a clever idea? I wonder whose idea it was?” And with that, the frog told them — and landed in the ocean.
Proverbs says, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (16:18)
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee is the one who enjoys a great reputation in the community.
He is the one that everyone respects and looks up to. The Pharisee was the one who is well educated and knows God’s will for his life and the people.
The tax collector was the one that was despised by the people. The Romans didn’t care about the background of the tax collector as long as the collector got the money. It paid well, but no one wanted to be your friend.
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men– robbers, evildoers, adulterers– or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ What is the difference between the two men? A fifth grade honors teacher once told me, she has gifted pupils still stuck on fourth-grade math. She spends lunch hour doing remedial tutoring for the gifted. She estimates that a third of her pupils do not belong in honors. And yet the gifted program grows and grows. A lot of it has to do with parental pressure. Parents of the gifted have formed their own group at the school. It is a political force, nominating school board candidates. Honors teachers complain that truly gifted children are not advancing quickly enough because instruction must be slowed to accommodate the semi-gifted. Why? Because pride outweighs the reality of the needs of the child.
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God, Jesus said. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In the parable, it is easy to see that God doesn’t desire the heart of the Pharisee but desires the heart of the tax collector. Pride has always separated humanity from God. Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, The great act of faith is when man decides that he is not God. The true scandal is that however faithfully and clearly one preaches the Gospel, at a certain point, the world, because it is in rebellion, will turn from it. People turn away not because what is said makes no sense, but because they do not want to bow before the God who is there. This is the “scandal of the cross.”
Leo Tolstoy tells in one of his folk stories of an aged man who overheard the conversation of three women at a well. The first one to speak described her son in glowing terms — he was an entertainer who surpassed all others in dexterity and skill. The second one of the three mothers, not to be outdone, told of her son’s beautiful voice — how he thrilled the young and old with notes as sweet as a nightingale. The two turned to the third one, asking, “In what talent does your son excel?” The woman simply answered, “My son is an ordinary boy, he has no special gifts of which I could report.” The aged man followed the three on their way back to the village. The heavy buckets of water they bore made them stop for a rest.
Their three sons came running to meet them. The first one turned one somersault after another. The women stood admiring the young entertainer. The second boy sang like a melodious nightingale. His singing moved the women; their eyes were dimmed with tears. But the third one of the sons ran to his mother, picked up the heavy buckets and carried them home for her. The three women inquired of the aged man. “What do you say about our sons?” “Your sons?” responded the astonished man. “I saw but one. I recognized only one single son.”
Church’s even become arrogant and lose sight of their mission. We have a big budget and can do all these things. All of the rich people go here. We are the largest and most influential….What witness was the Pharisee to the community?
Arrogance give us a cowardice that shrinks from new truth, and a laziness that is content with half truths, and an arrogance that thinks it knows all truth. Then God brings us down as he broke Job down, for our own good. I asked God for strength, that I might achieve — I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for help, that I might do greater things — I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. I asked for riches, that I might be happy — I was given poverty, that I might be wise. I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life — I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for — but everything that I had hoped for. Despite myself, my prayers were answered.