Thought for the day – Monday 18 May

Thought for the day - Monday 18 May
Dear All
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Robert Burns was influenced in his satirical poem, ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’, by today’s passage, the similarities are stark. I have, during these last 58 days of ‘Thought for the Day’ made mention of Burns and might need to do so again in the future depending on what comes to mind.
It’s amazing what does actually come to mind when you begin to write, you never really know where your thoughts might ultimately lead, what memories evoked, what experiences revisited and so on. It’s an adventure.
As it happens, I never actually write ‘Thought for the Day’ in advance. I think about what I might write but don’t actually do so till early morning when there’s nobody around to tell, me how grumpy I am. Even so, my Mr.Grumpy mug is there as a reminder, but at least, it never talks back.
What has come to mind today is the contrast between the ‘holy man’ and the ‘unholy man’, one a Pharisee the other a tax collector. The differences were obvious and Jesus, to make his point, chooses this imagery. Our passage is a parable, one of many that Jesus told and it should be remembered that this is so. Parables or other literary devices ought not to be stretched beyond what was originally intended.
As with much that we read in the gospels, Jesus, without a doubt, had a major problem with ‘religious folk’ ie, the officials. Jesus was able, in the beginning, to teach in the synagogue before he was turfed out and told not to come back. From the perspective of the ‘holy ones’, this was quite reasonable, after all, he healed people, helped people and worked on the Sabbath and no self-respecting leader should be doing this kind of thing.
The image of the two people at prayer together couldn’t have been more extreme. One a Pharisee, the strictest of the strictest religious class and the other a worthless tax collector, a sinner of the worst kind. One really good guy and one really bad guy and both approached the temple to pray. Their body language and their words could not have been more different. So what’s the point?
I doubt very much if you’ll have ever met such an arrogant and obviously self-righteous person, someone who looked down on others and prayed in such a fashion. I certainly haven’t but I have come across attitudes that smack of the same. I don’t think we should necessarily be on the ‘lookout’ for people like the Pharisee but rather ‘look in’, because much of what we dislike in others is often readily available in our own lives, it’s just that we don’t see it.
No boasting or self-righteousness means anything in the kingdom, only a humble and contrite heart will do before God, and such he will not despise. Man looks on the outward appearance God looks on the heart.
Piety, perseverance, and humility are prevalent in Jesus’ teaching today. How do we see ourselves and how do others see us?
Today I ask you to think/meditate on these things.
God bless you!

Jim

JBoag@churchofscotland.org.uk

LUKE 18: 1-14

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally, he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—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.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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