9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’
14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
The villain in this parable is the “thankful” one.
Building on the idea that Jolene shared with us Friday (Tone is EVERYTHING), that tone is as important as the words we use, this parable intimates that we can be thankful for the wrong things, or be thankful in the wrong way. Thanksgiving can become another ugly “religious” posture that we take.
In this parable the Pharisee expresses thanks, but it is self-centered and self-oriented. The thanks he expresses takes credit for the gift given and uses it to look down his nose at others. The way that we avoid the practice of thanksgiving devolving into “ugly” is by maintaining our twofold focus. We are in the middle of the equation: Grace – Gratitude – Graciousness. Our part is to give thanks. Gratitude is flanked by two others: God and people. God is the grace giver. People are the recipients of our graciousness. It is a parallel to to the greatest commandments: Love God, Love others.
When our thanksgiving is focused correctly we avoid the ugly religious “thankfulness” of the Pharisee.