Friday, February 12, 2016

Are You the Tax Collector?

"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." -Matthew 23:12 (ESV)

I am sure, for the most part, that the people reading this article are Christians. Most of the people reading this article are probably people who believe in the Bible, and believe that Christ is the son of God, who came to this earth to die for our sins. But there is a problem that I am seeing over and over again that is becoming worse and worse throughout time. An issue that seems to go ignored, and never seems to be brought to light. This is an issue that you may have, and even I struggle with from time to time.

We are told all throughout the Bible to go out into all the world and preach to everyone (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; James 5:19-20; Acts 14:47, etc.). We must always be striving to save the souls of those that are lost, and guide them to the narrow road. We must also encourage our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to keep the faith, and to grow in it (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 10:24-25, etc.).

I want to address a very big issue that I have seen in many people. I am not speaking about any one individual, but rather this is just an issue that I have seen a lot of recently. And that is taking studies and posting them to social media as a way of saying, "Look how spiritual I am!" Or marking in your Bible more just so that when you flip through it during the sermon, people see how much you study. Getting tattoos with Bible verses or symbols to show people how devoted you are to God. Shouting out in the streets and shouting "I AM A GOOD CHRISTIAN!"

Before I continue, I am in no way saying that there is anything wrong with studying God's Word with whatever method you choose. There is nothing wrong with writing in the margins, there is nothing wrong with highlighting, color coding, Bible journaling, or any of that. I myself just bought a journaling Bible because I have learned that there is no such thing as too much margin space. In fact, I encourage you to find whatever study method works best for you, and do it! The more motivation you have to study, the more you will be eager to do it.

Having said that, Christianity, in no way, should be used to glorify ourselves. In Luke 18 we are given the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. We often look to the tax collector here as an example, and we rarely even consider that we could ever be that Pharisee. However, I have seen many people in my time that are just like the Pharisee here. People who devote themselves to God. This Pharisee was very devoted! In verse 12 he says that he fasts twice a week and gives tithes of all that he gets. This man was devoted. This man was putting his life in God's hands, and he was striving to be acceptable to Him. And yet even those that are incredibly faithful can get caught up in sin without realizing. Even those that have given up their lives for Christ can forget that they are serving Him, and not men (Galatians 1:10).

Sometimes we can get so caught up in our own Christianity that we forget that we are imperfect. But we must never allow our glorification of God to blind us to our flaws. We must never allow ourselves to focus so much on the good, that we neglect to fix the bad. What I am talking about is not the method in which one studies. What I am saying is not about encouraging others to study God's word. What I am speaking about is intention. Where your heart is at. And whenever we only study God's Word to glorify ourselves, whenever we post onto whatever social media we can, pictures of verses over pretty backdrops, pretty sermon notes, and the most marked pages of your Bible, what is the intention? Where is the heart at? Who is truly being glorified?

I am not saying that these things are wrong. But whenever we do them simply to lift up ourselves, who are we really glorifying? Is it God? Or is it ourselves? Whenever we stand up and say "I AM GOD'S!" rather than allowing our actions prove that, who are we glorifying?

Again, I want to stress that I am not speaking about any specific individual. I am not saying that these by themselves are wrong. I think it's good when we encourage others to study and when we are not afraid to show others that we are faithful. Once again, what I am speaking about is intent. Is it your intention to glorify God? Is it your intention to inspire others? Or is it your intention to look good? Is it your intention to get more likes? Is it your intention to have others look at you and think "Wow! They're so spiritual!" Is this your intention?

God never wanted His Word to be used for us to look better. John 8:54 Jesus says, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say 'He is our God.'" Even Jesus Himself is saying that even He cannot obtain His own glory. Jesus, who aided in the creation of all things (1 John 1:3). Jesus, who came to save men from their sins (John 11:25). Jesus, who was perfect though he went through all kinds of temptations (Hebrews 4:15). Even He could not glorify Himself. How can we, then, glorify ourselves? (Matthew 23:12)

I do not want to discourage anyone from spreading the Word of God. I do not want to hinder anyone from being confident in their faith. However, sometimes it's important to take a step back and ask yourself what your intentions are. Ask yourself if you are the tax collector or the Pharisee. Ask yourself what it is that you are trying to do. Are you glorifying God in all things? Are you focusing on Him more than yourself? Are you the tax collector? Or are you the Pharisee?