Monday, January 25, 2010

Paradoxical Parable

It's the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican I'm talking about, and I'll tell you my problem with it.

You know the story. Here's a Publican and he's a traitor and an extortioner. He collects taxes for the Roman occupier and he gets rich by extorting from the populace a lot more money than they actually owe for taxes. He's a pariah. So when he comes into God's Temple, he barely dares lift his eyes to heaven to say, "Lord, be merciful me a sinner."

And here's the Pharisee, an upright and very religious guy, who "prayed with himself", saying, "I thank you, God, that I am not like that publican."

The Parable is obviously aimed at you and me, right? Which means we are supposed to view ourselves as the Pharisee. Otherwise it isn't aimed at us, after all.

But the thing is, the more you identify as the self-righteous Pharisee, the more you repent and become like the Publican.

Of course, you are meant to become like the Publican, right? I mean, "Be like this Publican" is the whole point of the story. But if you do say, "Yes, I'll be like the Publican," why, it isn't long before you begin thinking, "...And it's a very good thing, too. Thank God I am not like that Pharisee..." at which point you are!

It reminds me of a standing joke between my friend Kathleen and me. I used to introduce her to others as, "My spiritual guide. She's teaching me humility." Someone would invariably ask, "And how is that project coming?" and I'd say, "Very well, thank you. I'm making wonderful progress!"


s-p said...

Yes, My progress is evident because I thank God I'm not like all those people trying to figure out which Bible character they are. :)

David Dickens said...

I think you're reading more into than necessary.

Christ is telling us that humility is superior to self-control. Because ultimately humility will result in "God-control" (raise the lowly and cast down the proud)

To be proud of humility is to be proud that you grovel. Groveling isn't humility.

I know this because I grovel most of the time. Just ask s-p. :)

p.s. And I've always thought of myself as Peter. :)

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

You're both a couple of spoil-sports, that's what! Solving the dilemma for my readers before it even has a chance to soak in.

S-p, now I'll say what I almost said in reply to your comment on another post (the one about my proposed book): nothing gets by you, does it? You always GET IT. I have a feeling if you and I should ever meet in person, we'd spend about 90% of our time laughing.

Same may apply if I should ever meet you, David, er, Peter.

David Dickens said...

Woe to us who GET IT. I must admit while I enjoy thinking myself clever (or at least that my hard work of wasting all my time reading books was not in vain), I'm always a bit frightened when someone tells me I got something.

Getting something makes one almost universally responsible for doing something.

And I am no good at doing much of anything (except the aforementioned wasting of time reading books... and blogs).

p.s. Incidentally I first typed "Woah to us who GET IT" now it's hard not to read my post in my mind's inner Keanu Reeves voice.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

We'd all "get it" if we had enough love in our hearts, wouldn't we?

And enough awareness of our sin...

Weekend Fisher said...

I heard someone (R.F. Capon) commenting once on the Good Samaritan. He said that the Christ figure was the half-dead man on the roadside. And therefore all the Good Samaritan Hospitals should be re-named to "Man-Who-Fell-Among-Thieves Hospital". But then he wondered if the medical community would consider it defamation of character if their patients all checked in to "Man Who Fell Among Thieves Hospital" (think "medical bills").

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

s-p said...

WOAH! LOL! Keanu's best line in his entire acting career. So maybe we can rewrite the parable and the Pharisee would say, "I thank God I'm more clever than..." or maybe the Publican dared not raise his eyes to the bookshelf with Lossky on it and said, "God have mercy on me 'cuz I don't get it..."? Hmmm... the possibilities are endless. :) And yes, supper around a table with you (both) would be hilarious I think, and I don't EVEN want to envision it with strong drink involved LOL!