The Worst Sinners
The tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. Matthew 21:31
I’m not saying everyone should go out and develop a drug addiction, but I never really understood how badly I needed God until I tore my life apart by doing things my way. The truth is, I needed him all along, I just didn’t see it until disastrous consequences revealed the corruption of following myself above all.
Often, many of our struggles are just not that bad. If we don’t wrestle with something obvious – like a drug addiction – it’s easy to feel that we’re doing pretty well. We feel self-sufficient and we often develop a condescending attitude towards those who struggle differently than we do. I might not be the greatest husband, but at least I’m not an alcoholic. When we’re not that bad, it’s easy to indulge in pride, looking down on those whom we think are really bad. As it turns out, in God’s eyes, this condescending pride may be the worse offense by far.
In today’s passage, Jesus said those who find God’s kingdom aren’t necessarily the ones we think. The ones who find God are those – like tax collectors and prostitutes – who recognize their need and abandon themselves to follow him. Jesus wasn’t giving a green light to prostitution. He was saying that prostitutes at least know their need and aren’t disabled by blinding pride. He insisted that the religious leaders who think they are favored by God are far worse off than the ones upon whom they look down.
It’s true that not all offenses are the same practically. Different struggles have different consequences. However, when we minimize our struggle by comparing ourselves to – and looking down on – someone who is really bad, we ignore our worst crime, our hideous pride. In our pride, we believe we don’t need God as badly as others and we imagine ourselves to be better than those who really struggle. In thinking we are better than others in the kingdom of God, Jesus says we are actually much worse off than those we consider to be the worst of the worst.
I’m not happy about the destructive behavior of my drug addiction. If my addiction is helping me abandon my deadly pride though, and if it’s causing me to recognize my need for God, then it’s been worth it.