Trinity 11 - The Sunday of the Pharisee & the Tax Collector
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
August 16, 2015
Central Passage
Luke 18:9-14

In the name of the FATHER and of the + SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.

It is no odd thing to hear someone say that pride is the opposite of humility. But since it is no odd thing, it passes over us like water over a rock. Rather, then, let us say that pride is the opposite of faith. For that is truly what humility is: faith.

Consider Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. He humbled Himself taking on the form of a slave, being born under the law so that he could redeem those under the law. He emptied Himself and did not consider His divinity a thing to be stolen, but learned obedience by what He suffered. He who knew no sin became sin for us. And He who was very God of very God committed His ways to Him whom He called “Father”. Jesus humbled Himself. He said to His Father in heaven, “Not my will but Thy will be done.”

The Lord Jesus is the author and perfector of our faith. But perhaps this means something different than that He has created faith in us. In fact, it is the Holy Spirit who creates faith in us, the Spirit blowing where He wills, calling, enlightening, and sanctifying by the gospel when and where it pleases Him. Perhaps He is the author and perfector of our faith meaning that He authored the thing called faith and perfected it. Faith was first found in Him who said before the foundations of the earth were laid, “Send me, send me”. Faith was perfected in Him who trusted in and obeyed His eternal Father even to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The apostle says that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all. There is not my Lord and your Lord, my faith and your faith, my baptism and your baptism. There is only one. You and I, and all the saints of God are baptized in the same baptism, the baptism started by Jesus in the Jordan River. We have the same faith, the faith began and perfected in Jesus upon whom the Spirit descended and remained. It is the extent to which we live in and by this faith given us, the faith of Jesus, that we are truly humble.

It is no odd thing to hear someone say that pride is the opposite of humility. But since it is no odd thing, it passes over us like water over a rock. Rather, then, let us say that self-love is the opposite of humility. For that is truly what pride is: love of self.

The Pharisee loved himself and so did not love God. You cannot serve to masters. The tax-collector hated himself and so had love for God. Whoever does not hate his life cannot be Jesus’ disciple. Whoever does not hate his life cannot learn from Jesus what true faith is. That’s what it means to be a disciple of Jesus: to learn true faith. Not the academics of faith, though certainly that is of vital importance – to know the teachings of the apostles – but to learn the faith means to live the faith. And to live the faith means to face various trials.

Do not be surprised, then, when trials come upon you, as if something odd were happening to you. For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And when steadfastness has its full effect, you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But this is opposite of what we experience, isn’t it? It seems that when we are most faithful – loving those who persecute us and dying to serve those around us – that we lack in most everything. We lack time because they suck it all up. We lack money because they need our money. We lack alone time because they’re always calling on us. We lack leisure because they’re always needing something from us. When we die to self and live for others we seem to lack a great deal. Then someone comes along and says, Yes but you gain friends and so forth. And it is more blessed to give than to receive – Jesus said that, by the way (Acts 20:35); and other platitudes that don’t really satisfy.

But they don’t satisfy because we love ourselves more than others. Anyone who denies this – as Cain did when he said, “Am I my brother’s keeper” – denies our sinfulness. Because that’s what sin is: the love of self.

Humility is true faith, trusting in our heavenly Father for all things so that we never promote ourselves above what our Father in heaven gives us. He makes the rain to fall on the just and unjust. He gives food in due season. He provides for the body and the soul. He also gives us family, neighbors, and friends. But He also gives us enemies and those who hate us so that we would learn to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. Why? Because He is our Father and He loves those who hate us as He loved us before we loved Him. No one earns God’s love and so no one earns the love of God’s children. He loves of Himself, loving all without reserve, so we love of Him, loving all without reserve.

Anything that does not proceed from faith is sin. Anything that does not proceed from humility is sin since humility is dying to self and living toward God, just as the tax collector did. Thus it is written of we who are baptized: “We have died to sin and are alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Thus are you are exalted, alive to God in Christ Jesus. Thus are you justified. Thus are you are lifted up. The old is gone and the new has come. Pride lays slain and humility rises from the dead. You are lifted up and set in the heavenly places at the right hand of God, for that is where your Christ is and are called the children of God. And where He is there the Body will gather. You are lifted up out of the death and chaos of the world around us and placed in the safety of the Lord’s House where you are fed the Bread of Heaven and where there is room for you in the kingdom of heaven, because there is room for you in Christ who is your Brother; in Christ who is your Keeper.

+ In Nomine Iesu +