THE WEEK OF TRINITY XI – SUNDAY
LESSON: LUKE 18:9‒14
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” Luke 18:10
You have already heard that before any man can do what is good and pleasing in God’s sight he must already be a pious man, that is, he must be accounted as justified and righteous before God by faith in Christ. At all times it remains universally true that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and, contrariwise, that a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. If a man is to do what is good, he must be good beforehand. So also here. The tax collector beats his breast, and this act may be regarded as a mark of the faith he already had in his heart.
This took place and was recorded so that we should really open our eyes and not judge people merely by outward appearances. We must try to discover what was in the heart of these two men and not simply form a judgement according to works. If the heart is godly, all is godly. If this tax collector is judged by works, you soon come to a false conclusion. It appears that in him there is nothing but sin. Likewise, when I judge the hypocritical Pharisee here according to works, I also finish up with a wrong conclusion. He stands in the holy place, makes a fine prayer, praises and thanks God with impressive works, fasts, gives tithes, and harms no one. Everything about this man glitters. His standards find universal approval.
It is not easy to reject the testimony of such an honorable, virtuous life. Who would venture to assert that fasting is not good, that praising God and rendering to every man his due is something evil? When I look at a priest, monk, or nun, I regard them as godly. Who can gainsay me? But if I am to determine that this man is evil and that man godly, I must look into their hearts. This I cannot do.
SL 11:1486 (2‒4)
PRAYER: We know that it is quite useless, heavenly Father, to play the role of a hypocrite, because You can always look into our hearts and judge us accordingly. Purify our hearts from all base motives, that the services we render You may truly please You and benefit our neighbor, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
Editor’s note: No American Edition (AE) equivalent for today’s sermon excerpt exists at the time of this publication. For an alternate English translation of this sermon, see Lenker, Church Postil—Gospels, 4:336-347.