Judging Private Praise
Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Based Upon Luke 7:36-50
Picture the scene: Simon the Pharisee has a get-together at his home and Jesus is invited. Jesus probably lounges in the customary manner on something like a chaise lounger with his left arm or elbow resting on the table. A woman with a sordid past obviously came to the gathering with an agenda–to honor Jesus. So, with all of her heart she unsealed the container of precious perfume oil and began doting on Christ. I can imagine that every moment she passed while in Jesus’ presence must have felt as though weights of oppression, bad choices, shame, pain, fear, and weakness were falling off. Her tears must have flowed with the relief of a prisoner set free from a mandatory life sentence with all charges dropped. She worshipped; she cried; she reflected; all that was around her was lost in a haze of loving commitment to her King.
As the sweet aroma of this woman’s worship wafted into the air, a competing miasma of hypocrisy also permeated the house. The host, who should have been elated that his guests were well-entertained, chose rather to criticize a lowly woman’s worship.
Whenever we choose to rate someone’s private worship experience, we are on the wrong path. Not only do we position ourselves in the worshipper’s business, but we also blasphemously elevate ourselves into Almighty God’s business.
The Pharisee thought, “…This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39). Of course, Jesus dealt with this man’s pride as he set himself up as a judge of this woman, and as a judge of his Creator. You can read Jesus’ response in our theme text.
I would like to say, what many have left unsaid: This same proud Pharisee, supposedly of the elite class of religious leaders of his day, somehow forgot from whence he had come. This is often the case when power-drunk men choose to subjugate women. Let me let you in on two not-so-little secrets: This woman was the same Mary whom God honored to be the first at the tomb on resurrection morning. She was the one given the first charge to preach a risen Savior. How ironic! Now, Simon the Pharisee is none other than Simon the leper! That’s right, folks! The man who proudly wore religious garb as a covering of his sepulchre-like heart was once relegated to a colony of unclean lepers. Like all of the others who were unfortunately despised and rejected due to their horrid, contagious state, the Pharisee knew what it was to be judged, maligned, and outcast. Hence, the reason Jesus needed to deal with Him so directly in His parable. Simon forgot how to be thankful. Simon forgot the joy of being healed and forgiven. Consequently, he chose to set himself up as judge of a worshipful woman, rather than supporting her gratitude. When we forget how good God has been to us, we are in danger of telling others how to, and how not to use their fragrant gifts in honor of God.
For very good reason, the Holy Spirit had holy men to record this story. It is a lesson for us all. When God has been so good to us that He would condescend to forgive us of our sins, it is our privilege to give Him our all, and take two steps back to allow others to do the same. Amen.