Crime Does Pay: 3 Lessons from a Crook

February 27, 2012

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All good stories end with the bad guy getting what he deserves. Jesus tells a story about a crook, but this one has a twist.

Friday, I posted on Tony Alicea’s Blog. The article was showing how through adoption, our story is no longer our identity. If you missed it, go have a look HERE

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells a parable about the Pharisee and the hated tax collector. He is going to get to the root of people’s identity.

A tax collector was known as a crook. He would never be the guy you would hope your daughter would marry. They were known to be corrupt, unjust, and the worst of sinners. Think of all the modern day stereotypes, and this was the bad guy.

A Pharisee was the holy man. They took the 10 Commandments and enlarged them to 614 rules to show just how serious they were. They were respected and admired in society.

You can see where everyone present thought this little story was going. Commend the Pharisee and condemn the tax collector. 

Jesus is speaking to those who trust in themselves for righteousness. He is not merely telling a good story, He is after their hearts.

The Pharisee list his accomplishments. He keeps the rules, he check off all 614 boxes in the checklist.

The tax collector has nothing to offer. All he can do is beat his breast and cry out for mercy.

Simple ending right?

Nope.

Jesus throws a curve ball.

The tax collector goes away justified. That means declared righteous. Righteous means perfectly measuring up to God’s Standard. 

What?! 

Surely, Jesus messed up the ending of the story.

Or, He is getting to the hearts of those who are mini Pharisees. People who trust in themselves need to be shocked into a new reality.

Here are three things we can learn from the crooked tax collector:

1.Our Identity is not in keeping the rules or checking off some list. Its not the Ten Commandments, our church’s code of conduct, or a cosmic scale of good outweighing the bad. It is WHO we place our faith in.

2.We are not to trust in our own efforts but in the effort of Christ. Those listening to this parable and the Pharisee thought it was all about them. Jesus showed them it is all about Him

3. We must keep the position of a sinner in need of mercy. Being a sinner is our story, not our identity. We are saints. We are justified. But we must keep the posture of dependance rather than accomplishment. We trust in God rather than trusting in ourselves. This is what is needed to succeed.

We are still daily in need of the mercy of God.

We are like the tax collector. We were the bad guy who did not get the ending of the story that we deserved. 

That is called grace.

Photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God