Day Twenty-five= The Heart’s Intention
“I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” (Luke 18:12)
The scenario playing out in Luke chapter 18 is a parable Jesus told between a Pharisee and a tax collector. In this time period, civilized society considered the Pharisee to be refined and spiritual; whereas the tax collector was thought of as crooked or dishonest. The statement we read in our scripture above is made by the Pharisee. Through prayer he is attempting to bring to God’s recognition the fact that by comparison the tax collector falls far short of the righteous bar set by his amazingly perfect religious constitution. In essence it seems that the Pharisee is chanting to God like a child in the school yard…”I am better than he is…. I am better than he is!
On the other hand if we read farther down into the passage we see the tax collector also in prayer. He has his eyes cast downward unwilling to even look towards the heavens. He is not concerned with what other people are doing in the temple. His only concern is repentance to God. He recognizes that he is a vile sinner and that Only God can cleanse him. He understands that no amount of “works” whether it be through tithes, or fasting, or scripture memorizing, or church attendance can atone for the sinful nature his flesh has succumb to.
Both men saw the importance of the temple. Both men recognized the importance of prayer. So what is the difference between them? It seems that the moral of the story being conveyed lies in the men’s true intentions. The Pharisee sought to perform the “works” of the Lord solely for the purpose of being recognized, and congratulated; however the tax collector was so grief-stricken by his flesh that he literally beat his chest and cried for forgiveness. Repentance was his only concern!
It is easy to become “proud” of ourselves for a job well done. If you have made it to day 25 without falling off the fasting bandwagon, then a certain amount of pride in your own success is natural. In fact God is proud of you too. He is your heavenly father, He wants you to succeed. The trouble didn’t come for the Pharisee in being proud of his own accomplishments, but rather it came when his intentions changed from performing religious traditions in an attempt to be closer to God; to performing religious traditions in an attempt to receive praise for them.
Watch out! The devil will use any tactic to try to distract us from our true purpose. Don’t be sidetracked. Keep your intentions for this 40 day fast pure. Pride in your success is ok; but success in an attempt to feed your pride is where you will surly fall.