A Modern Day Pharisee

The Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, has grossly violated his marriage vows, his oath of office, and several laws, by engaging the services of a prostitute. The shock of hearing this news may have worn off, but you should not quickly forget its significance: hypocrisy (and the subordinate sin it attempts to hide) is alive and well in the world.

I have been thoroughly disappointed (and in a few cases, disgusted) with the main stream media’s treatment of the moral failures of Eliot Spitzer. Many call this a tragedy on a par with unavoidable natural disasters, while a others see it as the demise of a bright political future. One newspaper’s online editorial offered up an analogy to the animal world, comparing this reckless behavior with the urge for alpha-males to spread their seed with multiple females. (Give us a break!) We are not hearing or having real discussions of the morality of the situation when this is a perfect occasion to do so.

As a minister of the gospel (God’s “good news” for sinners in the person and work of Jesus Christ), I must decry Spitzer’s sins. I pray for a Christlike spirit, yet cannot remain silent.

So I was pleased to find help in the Scripture studied by our adult Sunday School class this weekend, Luke 7. Jesus has been invited to dinner in the home of Simon the Pharisee. During the meal, a woman — known publicly as a sinner — comes and washes the feet of Jesus with her tears and her hair. She is there because she’d been graciously forgiven by the Lord, and was overcome with gratitude and joy. Despite her acts of love towards Jesus, the self-righteous Pharisee is disgusted with the woman, and with Jesus for His lack of discretion, allowing her to touch Him.

After telling a parable that exalts the joy of being forgiven, Jesus publicly exposes His host’s sinful nature. The Pharisee had built his righteousness on pointing out the sins of others, and keeping himself safely separate from such sins. Yet, as Jesus speaks, his hypocrisy is made known. The woman at Jesus’ feet had no corner on sin.

Why did Jesus put a spotlight on this man’s sin?

In part to teach truth, and set the record straight for those in attendance (for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God). But all the more to call this man to repentance, and show him the way to forgiveness. In the passage Jesus made it very clear that He had the ability and authority to forgive sin.

Thus, I put this spotlight on the sin of Eliot Spitzer. The Bible encourages us to be clear about sin, and also about the Savior. Society needs constant reminders that certain actions are morally wrong in the eyes of God. Until someone sees their sin — that they are a sinner — they sense no need for a savior. The woman in the passage had known her sinfulness, and received forgiveness — and loved the Savior very much as a result. It is faith in Christ that saves sinners (Luke 7:50).

yours by divine mercy,
Pastor David

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