Luke 18: 9 “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable …”

You may be miles away from being confident in your own righteousness! Your problem may be the direct opposite of this. But the culture Jesus lived in is still here today in some respects.

In my own lifetime I have lived through the drawing up of lists of what is acceptable and what is not. Those lists have been written and then a decade later torn up and sadly re-written.

Today, I will go to 2 Church services and they will both begin with what was looked down upon in the Church in the 1970’s, that is, contemporary music. Along with jewellery, make-up, hair styles, dress codes, I will see many things today that were banned in the same stream of churches only 40-50 years ago. The Church is very different today and yet Christian conduct is still important.

You may not drink wine. You may not smoke. You may not have a television or if you do you don’t watch anything worldly. You may not play cards. You don’t do the lottery. You don’t swear. You may not go to a pub and if you do it is only for food. Today I will wear a tie to Church (to be fair that’s more to do with following my father’s behaviour who wears one most days than it is about any holiness code!) But the list can go and on. All these things can be reminders that we are doing okay. We hope that God is pleased with us. What we do know is that we are certainly better than those who do these kind of unholy things!

In the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had their Mishnah, their list of conduct. Mishnah means repetition. It was an oral law at the time of Jesus but in AD200 it was written down. It is now the first page of the Talmud and deals with the obligations of prayer and blessings, for example before and after food. The Talmud is the book of the Jewish law. Along with the Mishnah it contains the Gemara (more Jewish discussions on the Torah between AD200-500), the Rashi (11th century commentary on the Talmud) and other commentaries. If you read the text a page a day, the book takes 7.5 years to finish and the Jews have an event to celebrate the completion.

Einstein was asked what he would do differently if he could live his life again, he replied without hesitation: “I would study the Talmud.”

It would seem across the world in every generation there has been a genuine desire from most and amongst all religions to live a certain way that will please God/gods. The Talmud contains stories and discussions galore regarding this desire.

In it there is a powerful story of a rabbi who became immersed in his studies, and his wife who waited for him to return home. As a tear falls from the wife’s eye, the roof that the rabbi is sitting on to study collapses underneath him and he falls to his death. The story teaches us that the self-righteousness of this rabbi is something we can all fall into and the way that this can be prevented is simply being able to see another point of view.

And that is so prevalent today. We may not have our lists. Most of us know how wrong that would be. However there is a new danger which is as old as the Talmud and the Bible itself.

The danger can be summed up as this:

I am right. I do not agree nor value the other point of view, in fact, I look down on it.

v9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else.

Life hasn’t changed.

I AM RIGHT. This is what Jesus tells the parable to put right. Jesus needs to put right the I AM RIGHT. The truth is we are not.

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