“I’m thankful to be in a church where people are welcomed,” said a lady in a worship service I attended. “I’ve been to other churches where they turned people away at the door.” The worship service involved the idea of thanksgiving, and I was saddened by the woman’s story. That got me thinking about Jesus and the parable of the Pharisee and the publican:
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
‘I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.’
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).
Notice how this parable involves Jesus talking to people who thought they were righteous people, yet despised others. In verse 11, we read about the Pharisee praying and thanking God that he is not like other men “or even as this publican.” I’ve always imagined this Pharisee as pointing a long, bony finger at the publican. Regardless, the Pharisee goes on to brag about how he fasts twice a week and tithes. Through it all, the publican is standing a good distance away, acknowledging God only in his request for the Lord to have mercy on him a sinner.
This is why churches should be careful not to turn people away at the door. Sure, there are different definitions on “proper church attire,” but at least that person is coming to church, right? It could also be said that they lack money for clothing. You may never know if you do not take the opportunity to get to know him or her better.
As for bragging about fasting and tithing, that’s like saying, “I feed my kids.” Fasting and prayer are often linked together, and not just fasting from food. As for tithing, that’s giving back to the Lord a portion of what He gives us. I’m purposely not providing links here, as a little Bible study never hurt anyone. A great resource for that is to search what the Bible says about prayer and fasting on biblegateway.com.
Think for a moment about how you were before you trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Think about how you acted, how you dressed, etc. Would someone have turned you away from a church service? Now think about how you have changed since you asked Jesus into your heart. Have you, at any point, cast judgment on others for their actions and appearance? If you have, talk with the Lord. Ask Him to forgive you, and yes that is definitely something you need forgiveness for. Ask God to help you look at others the same way He does. He is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34). To be sure, He wants people to repent (Matthew 4:17), believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9), and obey His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). It’s possible they are coming to church to do exactly that. If they are turned away, where will they go? They may find something, maybe even something they need to hear. Still, those things are temporal. Heaven is eternal. So is Hell.