ODJ: The Soul’s Poison

September 2, 2017 

READ: Luke 18:9-14 

[Jesus] told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt (v.9 esv).

I recently witnessed an encounter where someone entirely dismissed and degraded another person. “Leave now,” the instigator said, “you’re not wanted here.” I took great offence for the person who received such cruel treatment. But I also felt profound sadness for the individual who spewed such mean-spirited words. I know how to help one who’s been rejected, but it’s far more difficult to know how to help one whose soul has been poisoned by contempt for another.

Jesus told a story about a Pharisee who was praying at the temple, a man who seemed to be impeccably moral and faithful. He didn’t cheat others, didn’t prey on the weak, wasn’t a carousing scoundrel, didn’t sneak around on his wife. To top it off, he gave 10 percent of everything he owned to God and fasted at least twice a week (Luke 18:11-12). Unfortunately, this man had two glaring issues: he trusted in his own goodness, and he “treated others with contempt” (v.9 esv).

Contempt is a vicious word. It means to despise, to count as nothing. This was a person who completely degraded other people.

There was also present in the temple a tax collector who kept to himself, downcast. He “beat his chest in sorrow” and begged God for forgiveness (v.13). This broken man could receive God’s forgiveness while the Pharisee, deluded by his self-righteousness, had a heart closed to God’s mercy.

Contempt may at times feel good. It may make us feel superior or even holy. But it always poisons our soul. Contempt doesn’t only degrade others; it also degrades ourselves, putting us at odds with God’s wide and generous love, hardening our hearts to Jesus and others. By God’s grace and strength, may we instead have humble hearts receptive to His mercy.

—Winn Collier

365-day-plan: Matthew 21:28-46

Read Col. 3:12-14 to see the foundation for treating others with kindness and forgiveness. 
When have you felt contempt for someone? How can your love for Jesus and His ways help you avoid showing contempt to others?