Trinity 11 (Lk 18:9–14)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO


((5. Oops!: When you stand before God, there’s no other sinner but you.))

“God be merciful to me, the sinner.”

“God be merciful to me, the sinner.”

Look down, beat your breast, and say it with me, “God be merciful to me, the sinner.”

Not “a” sinner, one among many. No, the Tax Collector in our parable says that he’s the only one. From the Tax Collector’s godly perspective, he is all that counts. The Lord looks at him and him alone, and what does the Lord find? The only sinner there is. Everyone is better than him, more godly than him, more righteous than him because they are good, godly, and righteous—he is not.

So also you. That’s who you are before God. When you stand before the Lord’s judgment seat, there is no one else. There is no class action lawsuit. There’s only you. There is no other sinner but you.

What you’ve done, you did, and what you should have done, you didn’t do. The buck stops with you and your sins. No one else takes credit. No one else to blame. You. That’s it. Just you. All the not good, icky, sinful things you’ve done and continue to do, all your stealing, illegal downloading, or cheating on your taxes, all your double-standards, unjust or unrighteous thoughts, all your adultery, lusting after him or her, looking at porn, not treating your spouse with love and respect, all your talking and disregarding those over you, every relationship that turns sour, all your everything—every last bit of your circumstances has one common denominator: you. Don’t look at others. They were not involved in yours sins. Even if they were, you are the common point at all the failures in your world. I am too. “God be merciful to me, the sinner.”

((4. Ugh!: We’re always bringing up other sinners.))

That’s all well and good, but we’re always bringing up other sinners. We’re all Pharisees walking around with our Tax Collector masks on. We want to be the hero, after all. We shouldn’t judge, compare ourselves, or look down on other people, but we do. We compare and think that we’re right with God and he’s okay with us.

We compare from above. We set ourselves above and better than others. I’m a better Christian because I don’t do X like them. I’ve never acts like him, so I’m holy. I never say bad words like her.

We compare from below. We play the victim. “The real problem is them, pastor. Thank God I’m not self-righteous like them. I’m glad I don’t treat people like they do, or think less of others like they do to me or other people.” Victimhood allows us to look down on others from below, to think unkindly of them, to be over and better than our villain. We’re the hero, we’re right.

The Lord doesn’t hear people comparisons. Doesn’t hear those who make them. You might think your godly, that you’re on the Lord’s and he’s on yours, but that’s just fake. Was that way with the Pharisee. The Pharisee’s praying to himself only, and his god (himself) is listening but not the true God. When you compare, you’re on your own. The Lord has nothing to do with such people. They go home and live this life and the next unjustified, unforgiven, unholy, dead. “God be merciful to me, the sinner.”

((3. Aha!: To be a true Tax Collector is a fruit of the Spirit.))

The way of comparisons isn’t the Lord’s Way. That sort of being a Christian, isn’t actually being a Christian, at all. It’s the religion of Cain. Of killing your fellow Christian brothers and sisters, of making them lower so you can be higher—even if they never know you think that way. Of being sent away from the Lord’s presence. All that thinking, working, and comparing is a work of the flesh just as much as all the icky sinful things are, too. That’s the religion and way of death.

You should be the Tax Collector before God. You should view yourself and yourself alone. Worry about you alone. Them? Don’t care. They don’t have anything to do with your sins. You should stop your sins, actually be repentant like the Tax Collector. You should be so horrified by your sins that you live and avoid them as if they’ll send you to hell—they will! But truly living like that is a fruit of the Spirit.

To live like the Tax Collector is a fruit of the Spirit. To stand before God and truly believe that you’re the villain before God, to stand up and say that you’re the sinner with no one else in mind, well, that’s a confession worked by the Spirit. And it’s also a faith and fruit worked by the Spirit to stand before God with the trust and confidence that He is not only merciful but redeems, sheds blood for such people—you!—to save, justify, and forgive. “God be merciful to me, the sinner.”


That’s the reality. THE LORD ATONES FOR YOU. He really does. He sheds blood—His own—for your comparing, your playing the victim card, your playing the holier-than-thou card, for your icky, horrify, terrible sins, for your faults that you think you can fix, for even your so-called “good works” you like to point to. He atones for it all, dies for them all. Jesus was the sinner for you. Your excuses don’t count. You know the things you really can’t set right. But all of that. Gone. Done. Set right. Perfect. Holy. That’s You.

THE LORD ATONES FOR YOU. Redeems you. Buys you back. Makes you His, and His alone. He made it so that your sins stopped with Him. You aren’t Pharisee or Tax Collector or even sinner. Not in your Baptism, not in Jesus. Why compare? There’s no need. You’re already set right with God. He made sure of that in His Son, Jesus. His blood and mercy 100% take care of that. Why look at yourself, your sins, your neighbor’s sins any more? What sins? THE LORD ATONES FOR YOU. You are atoned for.

((1. Yeah!: You “go ‘home’” justified.))

You go home forgiven. That’s what it means to be justified. You are forgiven. You are free. You are no longer a stand alone sinner, no longer a comparison-driven Cain or Pharisee. THE LORD ATONES FOR YOU. And you go “home” forgiven, too. Last day, eternal life forgiven. That’s what it means that the LORD ATONES FOR YOU.

You are a saint among a great cloud of witnesses, you are one saint in a countless number of other saints, you are in the Lord’s presence today with angels and with archangels and with all the company of heaven. Not just today but forever. THE LORD ATONES FOR YOU, after all.


“God be merciful to me, the sinner.” He is. THE LORD ATONES FOR YOU. Sheds His blood for you, delivers His blood and body to you today. There the mercy of God. There His forgiveness. There Him for you. To compare is to reject all that. But the LORD ATONES FOR YOU even from that. “God be merciful to me, the sinner.” He is.


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