Rev. Dr. Scott D. Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church, Amherst, NY
Admit it. You’ve done it. We all have. In this instance, we’re all guilty.
It makes no matter whether we are Democrat, Republican or Independent, white or black, rich or poor. We all point the finger.
We have made presumptions that, quite simply, aren’t true. We’ve cast judgments on others that are baseless. We’ve thought ourselves higher and better than others. We’ve wondered, “What’s wrong with these people?” “How could they think that?” “How could they support that?”
We criticize, call out and condemn. We’ve knocked down rather than build up. When our heads hit the pillow at night, we fall asleep thinking that we’re the heroes in the story of our lives. We believe that we’ve got it right; and those other guys… they’re wrong. At times we’re even tempted to pray, “Thank God, I’m not like those people.”
In scripture (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus tells the story of two people – a proud Pharisee and a humble tax collector. The Pharisee, he says, stands by himself and prays this way:
Thank you, Jesus! That I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, and adulterers, or even like this guy! [he says pointing at the tax collector]
In contrast, the tax collector standing far off at a distance does not even dare to lift his head, but instead, beats his chest and laments to God:
God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
Jesus tells his audience it isn’t the proud finger-pointer who walks away righteous, but the repentant sinner. And in doing so he offers an ancient lesson that is as relevant as ever. We are not to judge. It is not up to us to condemn or even to criticize. Rather, we are to humble ourselves. To remember the adage our teachers taught us in middle school: When you point the finger at another, three point back at you.
In these days where everything is contested, where we make snap judgments on entire classes of people, where we point the finger more than ever – may we heed the wisdom our Lord gives to his first disciples: … all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.
This is Jesus’ counsel to Democrats and Republicans, the rich and the poor, black and white, and the Pharisee and the tax-collector.
May we form a community that can pray together:
God, be merciful to us, for we are sinners. Amen.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.