Celebrates Twenty Years of equipping and supporting faith communities!

A message for the week starting on Sunday 23 October 2022

Lectionary Week: 20th Sunday After Pentecost
Prescribed Texts: Joel 2:23-32, Psalm 65, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Luke 18:9-14

Focus Text: Luke 18:9-14

Pharisees or Tax Collectors?

This is such a familiar text. The parable of the tax collector is often used in circles of those who care for others and for the world. It is also used for those of us that work within the intersectionalities of HIV and gender-based violence (GBV). The parable warns us of the danger of being self-righteous, thinking of ourselves as better than others. On the other hand, it tells us that there is life in what John van de Laar describes as “when we evaluate ourselves clearly, soberly and with humility enough to recognise our brokenness.” Without thinking, we put ourselves in the tax collector box – we realise we are sinners and need God!

I read Van de Laar’s piece on this text with a new perspective, with what he describes as the role of arrogance in creating injustice (https://sacredise.com/proper-25c/). Firstly, we view rich and poor, and the sources of poverty and richness, very differently!  We often hear people of faith say that they are so blessed because of some material thing – they might even go as far as saying God blessed them with a new car, with a holiday. At the same time, they will say how hard they worked, and that they “deserve” something nice, something special. We might have to admit that we easily use this language and that it is even seen as being spiritual.

When we talk about poor people, however, the narrative shifts . . . they make poor choices; they are responsible for what happens to them, maybe even that they are lazy. Somehow, we seem to think that those who have more materially, “deserve” this in some way. My Afrikaans friends may know the term “witbroodjie” used to describe the specially favoured one – we think people who have more material possessions, are particularly favoured by God!

Another way that our arrogance advocates or people in development work can fuel injustice, is when we think ourselves so much better than those who perpetrate the ills. I sometimes see that in the violent language when we talk about those who perpetrate violence – we become even more violent in our language than they are in their actions!

When we go into communities, we might do so with the best intentions, but maybe the way we act, the way we speak, and our terminology, convey something different. We think we are doing good, but we carry within the perception of superiority and self-righteousness. My fear is that when we read this parable, we like to see ourselves as the tax collector, while in fact, we are more like the Pharisee!

To think about: When we look at people with HIV, or at the people perpetuating or experiencing GBV, or at people who are poor – do we look at them from a position of arrogance and superiority, or with humility?

Prayer: Lord, make me content to simply be myself so that I can become more than myself.

Written by: Ms. Lyn van Rooyen, trained Churches Channels of Hope (CCoH) facilitator, communication consultant and editor