The God of Pride
Vicar Brad Akey


    The seven deadly sins are universal. There is wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Each is a form of self-idolatry. Each causes us to lose sight of what is proper in our life and place it upon OUR wants and desires. When we put those things before our neighbor and before God, this is where corruption happens. In our readings these deadly sins were all over. Envy, that Abel’s offering was accepted but not Cain’s. Greed, from the way that the tax collectors lived. Even lust was referred to in our Epistle, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. But no sin was emphasized more in these readings than the sin of pride. Luther notes how Lucifer was endowed above all the other angels and it went to his head and he became proud and despised God. And man is no different. 


The greatest sin of man is self-exultation, trying to justify himself, yet Christ who died for all, only exalts the humble.


We are told right away that this is a parable of Christ and in it He specifically targets those who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt. This Pharisee in the parable prayed standing by himself. “By himself” “could legitimately be translated ‘to himself.’” Pointing out what the Pharisee’s true goal is. He says, God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. The Pharisee attempts to cover praising himself and glorifying himself to God, by beginning with thank you.



 

Sermon for the 11th Sunday after Trinity, 8-16-2015
The God of Pride
Vicar Brad Akey


    The seven deadly sins are universal. There is wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Each is a form of self-idolatry. Each causes us to lose sight of what is proper in our life and place it upon OUR wants and desires. When we put those things before our neighbor and before God, this is where corruption happens. In our readings these deadly sins were all over. Envy, that Abel’s offering was accepted but not Cain’s. Greed, from the way that the tax collectors lived. Even lust was referred to in our Epistle, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. But no sin was emphasized more in these readings than the sin of pride. Luther notes how Lucifer was endowed above all the other angels and it went to his head and he became proud and despised God. And man is no different. 


The greatest sin of man is self-exultation, trying to justify himself, yet Christ who died for all, only exalts the humble.


    We are told right away that this is a parable of Christ and in it He specifically targets those who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt. This Pharisee in the parable prayed standing by himself. “By himself” “could legitimately be translated ‘to himself.’” Pointing out what the Pharisee’s true goal is. He says, God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. The Pharisee attempts to cover praising himself and glorifying himself to God, by beginning with thank you.


He was enumerating aspects of the Law that he thinks that he has not broken. If you notice all the “I’s” in his statement, I thank you, I am not like, I fast, I give tithes of all that I get, we know that his love is not to the Lord, but to himself. “Wherever perfect love for God is lacking, the perfect fulfillment of the Law is also lacking—because the sum of the whole Law is love (1 Tim 1:5).”


On the outside the Pharisee is pious, in fact one may wish the whole world were like him in his religious fervor. But sinful self-justifying thoughts are not what God looks for. He looks for more than just our external works. He looks to the faith which is in our hearts. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift ofGod, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.


This is why God will forgive all sins, except for the pride of unbelief. For self-glorification denies the salvific work of Christ. Just as God had no regard for Cain and his offering, so too the Pharisee will not be heard nor exalted. Christ says, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”


“It is indeed dangerous to think often of our good works and to boast of them. For one’s heart can easily be given over to arrogance. By contrast, it is of value to think often and a lot about our sins and to be troubled by them; for it is thus that we come to true humility.” But not only was the Pharisee in this parable being arrogant, he was justifying himself, making a case before God of how he has done well. This Pharisee is telling God what his verdict is, and expects God to just nod along. However, that is not what happens with the tax collector.


The tax collector humbles himself and would not even lift up his eyes to heaven. He instead beat his breast, “He recognized that his own heart was the wellspring of all sins, since ‘… out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander’ (Matt. 15:19). To show that the innermost reaches of his heart were wicked, he beat his breast over his heart out of true repentance.” Instead of telling God what His verdict is, he knows what His verdict should be and begs for it not to happen. He says, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ He hopes upon the mercy of God and what is involved with God’s mercy, Christ. The tax collector trusted in God, just as our Epistle says, But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.


The tax collector who has lived a life of sin has come before God, acknowledging his shortcomings and his need for help and guidance. He, who was dead in his trespasses, is made alive in Christ. So when Christ says, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified,” we can understand why. In the same way that the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, the Lord had regard for this man’s confession.


Many today think that because we are in a different age that we know better than the people of old. I have heard the argument myself. Those people needed someone or something to look to for answering life’s mysteries. However, now we do not need a god. The world has become a better place and we no longer have a need for religion. We have progressed as a people and as a society.


What could be more prideful and arrogant? “Because of arrogance God destroyed his chosen people Israel… and, for the same reason, Lucifer was ousted from heaven, and Adam and Eve from Paradise.” What do you think is going to happen now? Our society has turned things backwards, it has now become legal to kill someone you do not yet consider a person, to marry against human nature, and to hate those who disagree with you. Humanity really has set itself up as its own god of pride and it rules with an iron fist. But God’s people are to speak the truth in love concerning all sin.


Yet our standing before God cannot be gauged by comparing ourselves to society’s sins. If we do, we are just like the Pharisee. We have taken away what is God’s and made it our own. That is not what the tax collector did. But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast. Before God what matters to him is his own wrong doing, his short comings, his rebellion to God. That is how we should be before God. Rather than comparing what we think our accomplishments are, let the Lord boast in His accomplishments in us. Rather than looking down upon our brother, let us say, “I am my brother’s keeper – I will keep speaking the truth in love and suffer for it if need be.” Rather than trying to justify ourselves, let us remember it is by grace you have been saved.


Unlike the Pharisee who tried to keep the Law on his own and failed, Christ did keep it and then became sin for us that we might not suffer the verdict we deserve. He could have said “God, I thank you that I am not like other men.” But that grace which saves us, is when Christ comes and says that He is His brother’s keeper.

 

This is not our own doing, but it is His doing, on Calvary. It is there that those seven deadly sins are placed upon Him. It is when He is nailed to that tree that He suffers damnation from God. Just as the tax collector bowed his head before God, Christ bowed His head in saying, “It is finished.” That finished redemption, the free grace of God in Christ which now saves us is present here during the Divine Service in God’s house, in baptism, and at the altar.  In all these gifts He says, “God be merciful to these sinners through me!”


Only The One who died for all may exalt himself. Only The One who rose for all can exalt the humble. Beware for sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. And in Christ you do rule over it, like the tax collector did. Because of Christ, he was able to lay down his selfish desires and any trust in himself, and look solely upon his sure foundation, Jesus Christ his Lord.


When Christ defeated sin and death, He defeated its power and its sting. Sin no longer has control over you. Death no longer has dominion over you. The victory has been won, you are now slaves of righteousness and He has raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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