Good morning boys and girls!

Have any of you ever been bullied, teased or made fun of? It isn’t very much fun, is it? Believe me, I know the feeling because when I was your age I was bullied, made fun of and teased. Why do you think some people act like that?

Have you heard anyone brag about how good they are in school or in sports? What do you think of people who are like that? Why do you think people act like that?

Well, one reason why people brag, bully, tease or make fun of other people might be that they think that they are better than other people. But as God’s children we know that this is not true. We are all the same in the eyes of God, and he hates people who think they are better than anyone else.

Our Gospel reading today from Luke 18:9-14 talks about someone who thought that he was better than anyone else.Boys and girls, the Pharisee thought that he was better than anyone else. The Pharisees were among the religious leaders in society at that time, and they were so observant of religious laws that they thought that they were better than other people in society.

Dr. Seuss once wrote a story about a turtle like that. The title of the story is “Yertle the Turtle.” Yertle was ruler of a little pond on the island of Sala-ma-Sond. All of the turtles at the pond had everything they needed and were quite happy. They were happy, that is, until Yertle decided that his kingdom was too small. “I am ruler of all that I see, but I don’t see enough. My throne is too low down” complained Yertle. So Yertle lifted his hand and gave a command. He ordered nine turtles in the pond to stand on each other’s backs so that they could become his new and higher throne. He climbed up onto the backs of the turtles and he had a wonderful view. But Yertle still wasn’t satisfied. “Turtles! More turtles!” he called from his lofty throne, Yertle swelled with pride and feelings of importance as turtles from all over the pond came to climb on the stack of turtles which made up Yertle’s throne. At the very bottom of the stack was a plain and ordinary turtle named Mack. He struggled under the weight of all the turtles until finally, he decided that he had taken enough. That plain little turtle named Mack did a very plain little thing. He burped! His burp shook the throne and Yertle fell right into the mud! And now the great Yertle is King of the MUD. When you think too highly of yourself, you often wind up taking a big fall, don’t you?

In contrast, the tax collector was among the lowest class of people in society. Some of you have probably heard your parents complain about how much they have to pay to the tax man, and if you want to know why they complain, just wait until you have jobs of your own and have to pay taxes! In Jesus’ time, tax collectors “bought” their jobs from the Romans. They collected the taxes that people owed to the Romans, but they also tried to collect as much tax revenue as they could from the people. The difference between what the tax collectors collected and what they paid to Rome was their salary.

The tax collector was truly sorry for his sins and prayed to God with all of his heart. In contrast, the Pharisee bragged about how better he was than the Pharisee. Jesus does not like people who brag or think that they are better than other people. He said in the passage that in his coming kingdom those who think they are better than other people will be among those who will be made humble, and those who are humble and come to Jesus in humble faith will be glorified. Jesus likes humble people.

Let us bow our heads, close our eyes and have a moment of prayer. Dear God, thank you for loving us when we come to you with humble hearts filled with true faith. Help us always to be close to you in faith and humility. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

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