As parents we all have those days where we seem to be in a power struggle with our children. I faced one such day when my son Benjamin was eleven years old. My usually agreeable child met every request with a fierce argument, and by dinner I felt like I had been through a battle and was ready for the day to end.
In an effort to end the day on a positive note my husband suggested a family walk. It was a warm night, and everyone seemed to be in a better mood as we finished up the walk and rounded the corner toward our house. My nine-year-old daughter, Emily, and I were behind my husband and Ben when she said, “I’m so glad I have an older brother!” I thought, “Wow! This day is really turning around!” I asked her, “Why is that?” This was where I made my mistake; I should have just accepted the comment at face value, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Well it’s really great to be able to learn from all of his bad mistakes like…” and she began to enumerate all his faults from that day. Ben was furious and came unglued.
Standing in the middle of the driveway, between my two children, it occurred to me that Emily sounded a lot like a certain Pharisee found in the Bible.
Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed:‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said,‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
I don’t think I will ever read this story without picturing my little girl as the Pharisee.
The Pharisee was so confident in his own righteousness that his prayer was completely focused on himself and the sins of the tax collector. My daughter also felt confident in her rightness (I have no idea where she gets that), and it was easy to look down on her brother.
All of us have done this at one time or another, and while we’re finding fault with others, it’s impossible to have the attitude of Christ.
Day-to-day struggles have a way of revealing who we really are, those deep down motivations of our hearts.
Matthew 12:33-35 (NKJV)
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
Abundance in the Greek is perisseuma. In this passage, it means in which one delights, that which fills the heart, that which remains, the residue of our hearts.
When I read that definition, I immediately thought of an empty glass of milk. There is always that residue left over once you have drained the contents. When we are exhausted, emotionally undone, or at the end of ourselves, we usually excuse our bad behavior and even our sin.
Well, if I wasn’t so tired, I wouldn’t have been short tempered.
If my boss wasn’t so pushy, I wouldn’t have to lie.
I need some me time! I can’t worry about other people.
That is often the residue of our hearts. However, Jesus said out of the good treasure of our hearts we bring good things. This is where our relationship with Christ really begins to show up. When our hearts have been changed by God, it will be reflected in the words that we speak.
I don’t know about you, but I’m weary of hearing my own excuses. I desire for the residue of my heart to be a blessing to those around me. I don’t want to be like the Pharisee in Luke 18 who had knowledge of God but lacked the attitude of Christ. He knew the laws of God, but his heart was far from Him. His life did not shine brightly attracting people to a relationship with their creator.
What is the residue of your heart? How can you begin to fill your heart with good treasure?
Angela is an inspirational and educational speaker who teaches the hard truths of God’s Word in a fun and relevant way. She is also a writing assistant to Joanna Weaver, author of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Whatever she is doing, she has a passion to see spiritual growth and an increased sense of purpose in people’s lives. Angela and her husband Michael graduated from Northwest University in 1997 and have been married for 17 years and have 2 children. They currently live in Washington State.
You can follow her on her blog at No Ordinary Days