Confessions of a Pharisee

I could hear her before I could see her. I had just cranked up my car and was about to back out of my garage. I thought the unusual sound was something from my radio. But I kept hearing it, even after I turned my car radio off. And that’s when I saw her.

I was standing in my garage, face to face with a drug addict.

Well, I can’t really prove that she was on drugs. But she looked like it. And that’s good enough, right? Besides, you’re not being judgmental if you’re right, right? Isn’t that somewhere in the Bible?

The lady wanted to borrow something. Something that I had. Something that was in plain sight, right there in my garage. I felt forced to hand it over, not because of any goodness on my part. I just couldn’t come up with a decent excuse.

“Sorry, I’m going to need that in a few minutes to clean out a clogged hyper valve on an ’72 Oldsmobile.”

So I gave it to her, knowing that I would never see it again. Drug addicts are terrible at returning things. But she promised that she would. She could see that I was heading out so she said that she would just leave it by the front door. I kindly agreed, all the while knowing that I would never see this thing again.

I came back home later that morning and went straight to the front door. Nothing. I told my family. I told them that this was no surprise. Drug addicts never return things. I concluded that she was probably scoping out our house so that she could rob us later on.

And then the doorbell rang.

It was her. Returning what she borrowed. She said that she didn’t want to leave it laying outside because she was afraid that someone would take it. So she waited until I got home to hand it to me in person.

But that wasn’t good enough for me. Sure, I was glad that she brought back what belonged to me but now I had other concerns. What did she need this for? I haven’t seen her family in a while. Where are they? Did she use my stuff to kill her family? Probably so. You know how drug addicts are.

A few mornings later I was outside with my sons when the same woman came back. She needed to borrow something again. Immediately upon her arrival, my sons ran inside screaming to my wife. You would have thought that one of the ladies that helped Charles Manson had come by for a visit.

“She’s back! She’s back! Mom, that woman is back!”

This time she did what she needed to do and returned what she borrowed almost instantly. By the time my sons came back outside she had already politely said thank you and gone on her way.

That night at dinner, one of my sons said something about our visitor. Something that almost knocked me out of my chair.

“That lady needs to get it together and quit relying on us to help her.”

I wondered where my son got this kind of rude, self-righteous attitude from. It only took me a few seconds before I realized that he learned it from me. Without knowing it, I had been teaching this to my son for the past few days.

“Jay, standing by himself, prayed thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this drug addict that wants to borrow my stuff all the time and is probably either going to pawn it for more drug money, use it to kill her family or come back and rob us.'”

It was then that I realized how big of a Pharisee I am. It broke my heart to realize that Jesus, if he were conducting his earthly ministry today, would probably be at that lady’s house, eating and drinking with her and her friends (Matthew 9:9-13) only stopping by mine to pronounce woes upon me (Matthew 23).

My self-righteousness had obstructed my view, just like Jesus said it would (Matthew 7:1-6). All I could see was what this woman might be. I was too busy to see what I really am. I looked down on her because she was strange and because she was in need. Conveniently, I forgot how much of a stranger I am to the holiness of God and how desperately I still need his grace and mercy.

Pharisees, tax collectors, Southern Baptist pastors and presumed drug addicts have more in common than one might think. We’re all sinners in need of a Savior.

Some of us are just more skilled at making ourselves look better than we really are.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14