The Pharisees thought they were something because they prayed a lot and knew a whole lot about God’s Word. But they were the bad guys, right? So why should we seek to be diligent in things like prayer and Bible-reading?

A while back, I learned the importance of paradigms from Stephen Covey in his book called “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” A paradigm is basically the filter by which you see the world. We all have paradigms. It’s not bad to have them, but the problem is that most people don’t tend to see, acknowledge, or challenge their own paradigms.

As it turns out, a big part of Jesus’s earthly ministry involved challenging paradigms.

The fact that Jesus sat and ate with sinners blew minds! It likely even surprised the sinners themselves. The woman at the well definitely seems startled that a religious male Jew would talk to her. How much more startling to then find out this is the Christ, God Himself, showing genuine interest in her life.

We know for a fact Jesus’s dinner plans shocked the most religious and devout. While Jesus is sharing a meal with some of the worst people imaginable, we get to see the response of the Pharisees.

…When they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, [they] said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’
Mark 2:16

They were baffled and frustrated. Their paradigm was that God draws near to those who at least appear to be doing the right things. If God were to come to earth, wouldn’t He want to spend his time with the best of the best?

Jesus’s response shifts their understanding of what God is all about.

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’
Mark 2:17

The Pharisees spent their lives praying and reading the Word of God because they thought it made them righteous. They wanted to impress God and others with their flashy prayers and their puffed-up knowledge. They misunderstood God. They saw him through a filter of their own making.

Throughout the Old Testament the Pharisees had been told by God to pray. They had been told to know and treasure God’s Word. They had been told to seek earnestly after God. But somehow they missed the right posture.They thought doing these things was the equivalent to extra credit work. Something that gets you scholarships and high honors. But the right posture has always looked more like the failing student who desperately seeks out the help a tutor or mercy from the teacher.

Things aren’t much different today. There are folks who read the Word and pray because they think it makes them awesome. On the other hand, there are folks who scoff at those who read the Word and pray, because they think those people are just trying to be better than everyone else.

However, there are many who read God’s Word and pray because they are simply that desperate. They are the emptied out, the poor and the needy. They are the soul-sick and in need of a soul-Savior. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, these folks are true saints. Often the truest saint is the one who knows just how sick he would be if he ventured too far from the Doctor.

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