In the Gospel reading (Luke 11:37-41), Jesus declares that the Pharisees were filled with plunder and evil. Some bibles translate this as “rapaciousness.” To be rapacious means to covet what others have, and to live on prey. In other words, the Pharisees preyed on others, plundering what did not belong to them.
What were they plundering? The root cause of their legalistic emphasis on proper rituals was their covetous greed for authority. The Pharisee enjoyed pointing out what Jesus did wrong. He was trying to make himself superior to Jesus. He was coveting Christ’s authority. So, to offer a cure for his greed, Jesus assigned almsgiving for a penance in case he wanted to become truly holy.
Jesus passionately condemns any self-righteous focus on the “wrong-doings” of others, because it puffs up the self while preying on the self-esteem of those who get scolded. Self-esteem is essential for being able to love one’s self, which is absolutely necessary for being able to love others unconditionally (rather than co-dependently).
When we get into arguments and insist that we are right and our opponents are wrong, we’re in a battle of winners and losers. Do we really want the other person to be a loser? Analyze your motives: Do you really want to win the argument to make your opponent a loser – so you can feel superior – OR for the sake of helping him or her?
When we think we need to feel superior, it’s because we can’t handle being wrong due to our own low self esteem.
We do care about others, and so we want to help them understand the truths that we’re trying to explain. However, this helpfulness is never accomplished in the heat of battle. Both sides get too defensive to let in any new insights.
To end the argument and bring the discussion into God’s victory, we need to separate our holy goal of being helpful from our selfish goal of defending ourselves. We need to hand over to Jesus the hurt that we’re feeling to let him heal us rather than expecting others to make us feel better.
Later, when we’re alone with Jesus, we can let him build up our self-esteem as we complain to him (and only to him) about our problems. But for now, we must lay down our lives for the sake of the other person.
When our love becomes more evident than our need to win the argument, others begin to feel safe with us. Feeling safe, they become willing to listen. And if they also feel heard, they no longer feel threatened by the insights we share, and then they listen even more closely. However, this process can take a long time, so be patient and persistent in conveying your love.
Jesus doesn’t want anyone to be a loser. Even when they disagree with us and we’re right, he wants them to feel lifted up into the victorious realm of love, where we are all winners.
© 2015 by Terry A. Modica