This text provides us the opportunity to address one of the great sins of the church – pride. I’m talking about self-righteous pride that says things like; “If the pastor was really a man of God, he would know what kind of a person he is having coffee with (or having to his home, or inviting into our church) and allowing to give him a hug – she (he) is a sinner!”
I once had an elder actually tell me; “Pastor, that’s good that you care about ‘those people’ (‘those people’ I was ministering to were either in jail or recently let out of jail), but they will never contribute to our church or become leaders. We need to reach out to wealthy people!”
Sadly, “Pharisees” exist in our churches yet today. They may not be men strutting about in fine clothes, with a ring on every finger and a big phylactery tied to their forehead, but instead might be little old ladies who, during the week, are busy making quilts and on Sunday morning found sitting in the same pew they’ve sat in for the last 50 years, dishing out the same judgmental words as the Pharisee in our text. If a church is going to be faithful to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, such pride needs to die!
One way to address it is with law/gospel preaching and this text provides a perfect opportunity to do so. The first question to ask is; “Who are we inviting to our table?”
If we just invite our Christian friends, how will unbelievers have an opportunity to meet Jesus? Or if we invite unbelievers, do we only invite unbelieving friends who don’t make us uncomfortable by their sins?
The Pharisee thought Jesus didn’t know who this woman was, but he knew. Yet he was less concerned about her sins than he was with the sin in the Pharisee’s heart – the sin of pride.
I believe Jesus wants us to intentionally invite people to our tables whom we know are living in sin. Not to compromise with them, and not people who might be a temptation to us, but sinners who we know are broken and looking for Jesus. And brace yourself, when we do this, the little old ladies at church will start whispering!
The second question to ask is; “How big is the debt which Jesus paid on my behalf?”
When we can get others (and ourselves as well) to stop thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought, then we can begin to think of ourselves with sober judgment (Romans 12:3) and in the process find that our debt of sin is just as big as the worst sinner we know or can imagine. It’s humbling. And it’s supposed to be. That’s how we get rid of pride! (James 4:4-10)
We don’t have to (nor should we) commit some “enormous” sin, from which we then would turn and ask Jesus to forgive us, to comprehend the magnitude of God’s grace and mercy! We only need to think on the truth of who we are apart from Christ, and how easily the sinful nature within us is deceived so we suddenly find ourselves sitting in the same place of judgment as the Pharisee. Our pride, our self- centeredness, our lust, our lack of compassion, our failure to do the right thing when the opportunity is there, etc, is all sin. All we have to do is begin to add up the debt we already have and we will easily become overwhelmed, like the woman at Jesus’ feet, by how much he loves us and has forgiven us.
A third question we do well to ask is: “How are we doing at forgiveness?”
Are we forgiving others for their sins against us? To not do so has serious consequences. (Matthew 6:14-15) Are we seeking Christ’s forgiveness? It is free and complete! (1 John 1:9) Are we forgiving ourselves? That condemning “voice” in our head that refuses to believe God has forgiven us for this or that is not God’s voice. That is Satan trying to rob us of the peace that is ours by humbly resting at the feet of Jesus and hearing over and over; “Your sins are forgiven.”