Hope When Know One Sees

Luke 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 

10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This parable has been bothering me for a while. Recently I wrote about it here. Now that the Coronavirus has the nation (world!) in a tizzy, the parable has landed on me again. Here’s the question that this season and parable forces me to wrestle with: What’s my hope in when I can’t be at church? Or, to put it another way: Where’s my hope when no one sees what I do?

In the parable, the Pharisee couldn’t wait to the get to the temple. Not to be real with God. But to make sure God and everyone else knew what he had been “up to” during the week. His prayer was focused on what he had been busy doing and not doing. The Pharisee had been busy fasting and tithing and going to temple. He spent his time making sure he wasn’t like those people, the tax collectors. He couldn’t wait to get to church (temple) to show off his way of living. He so hoped someone would ask him what he had been reading in the Torah. He waited until someone was looking before he put his tithe in the plate. He longed for the adoration of the church people to – again – be amazed at his “goodness.” His identity was bound up in who he was before church people.

Now that we are living in a season when we can’t go to church, we churched people are having to ask ourselves, “What is my identity in?” Or, “Why do I do what I do?” Or, “Is my hope in what people see or hear of me doing (or not doing)?”

What if an evil and wicked and hated tax collector has some counsel for us? What if going to church was never meant to feed our need for approval? What if meeting with other believers was never intended to be a place to showcase our supposed righteousness? What if meeting together was for reminding ourselves of our desperate need for Jesus and that we are loved infinitely because of our faith in what in He did for us? And what if we were never meant to go to church to find our identity, but to be the church wherever we are?

Don’t waste this season, church. Let the Spirit of our loving Father purge those things that have needed to be purged for a long time. Wrestle these questions to the ground:

  • What’s my hope in when I can’t be at church?
  • Where’s my hope when no one sees what I do?