Is attitude important? Which is better: Doing the right thing for the wrong reason, or doing the wrong thing for the right reason?
I was thinking about something the other day, when I listened to a message on the Beatitudes. In relation to what Jesus taught, the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector was brought up.
9And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14, King James Version)
You know, the Pharisees knew their law inside and out. They were so meticulous that Jesus scolded them for tithing on herbs while neglecting the more important matters (Mt 23:23).
You know, I’m sure the Pharisees believed they were right. After all, “righteous” comes from “right”. They probably believed they had the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It was an “us vs them” mentality.
They were so convinced they were right that they contradicted the very One Who gave them the Law in the first place! They were so convinced they were right that they crucified the very One they claimed to serve!
I have seen modern day Pharisees. They are so convinced of their own righteousness that even if Jesus Himself came and taught their congregations on the Sabbath day, they would kick Him out of their church!
I have heard people say, “We have the whole truth.” No, you do not, and you are a liar if you say such things. Only God has the whole truth, and you just failed the test of the Beatitudes. You are not poor in spirit because you elevate yourself. You do not mourn for your sins because you feel you have none. You are not meek because your pride is in the way of seeing yourself in relationship to God.
“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself… I … I … I … I …”
Here is a more up-to-date version of this: “God, I thank you that I am not like those in the world or in those ‘other churches’ – lukewarm, confused about the calendar, singing modern music instead of stale hymns, not setting up ‘God’s government’ in their churches – or, even as this Laodicean here. I produce booklets, tapes and telecasts, and I follow God’s End-Time Apostle.”
No, that is not how a Christian should be. Jesus gave a very different formula to live by.
“Poor in spirit” – the knowledge that you fall terribly short and that something must be done about it.
“Mourn” – because we are terrible sinners and sin covers the earth.
“Meek” – the knowledge that everyone except God falls terribly short, and it is by His standard we must measure ourselves.
Notice that these add up to repentance. I’ll submit to you that this is not a one-time event, either! It is a continual cleansing process that must take place (but that is a whole subject in itself).
The Pharisees did not hunger and thirst for righteousness because they, in their minds, had already attained it. The Pharisees were not merciful because they had not received mercy (nor saw their need for it). Instead, they were cruel, legalistic and overbearing. Know of any bearing the title “Church of God” that are that way?
They did what they perceived was right, but they did it for all the wrong reasons. Worse, their insistence that they were right meant they were not forgiven of their sins (Jn 9:41). It eventually led to an even worse sin – murder of the very Messiah they claimed to be looking for.
21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23, King James Version)
"Lord, Lord! Have we not evangelized in Your Name? And in Your Name produced many wonderful booklets, pamphlets and telecasts?"
What led up to that exchange? How many people miss it!
20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:20, King James Version)
Which "fruit"? Let the Bible interpret the Bible!
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23, King James Version)
Church of God, it is to your shame that I write about your lack of compassion upon each other!
4Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,
5Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?
6And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
7Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?
8And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,
9Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
10And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart. (Zechariah 7:4-10, King James Version)
Christianity is a way of life. In Western society, we talk about “lifestyles” as though we can take them off and put them on as garments. But, a “way of life” is something quite different. It is something that you feel. It is something inside of you.
The Pharisees knew the Law inside and out. They should have known better. Ignorance was not an excuse for them. They gave no mercy, and so they will receive little mercy. Those who truly do not know will be shown compassion, however.
48But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:48, King James Version)
If we cannot realize that we do not know it all, then we are filled with pride and will be less compassionate towards others. That doesn’t mean we should not hold fast to what we do know. However, we have to be honest with ourselves and with Our God about where we are ignorant and not judge people on the basis of human interpretation.
Remember, “poor in spirit” means the ability to admit we are wrong about a lot of things.