In speaking these words to the Pharisees, do you think Christ’s point was, “Don’t worry about sin and repentance, Mr. Pharisee, because you are doing alright in that regard. This tax collector, though, is really in need of some work on his soul”? Of course not. Jesus has no such view of Pharisees, and no such view of any human in particular.
What Jesus was trying to put across was that Levi the tax collector felt his need of a physician-he knew he needed forgiveness and grace. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were too sure of their own righteousness to partake in the infinite mercy and forgiveness of the divine physician.
One of the most dangerous positions to be in, spiritually speaking, is when we are comfortable with our own moral standing. When we feel good about ourselves, we are guaranteed to miss the greatest gift of all.
This study done by the National Study of Youth and Religion identifies such a state among America’s youth, and likely in the culture at large. The Study concluded that the closest definition it could come up with for the way youth view their Christianity and spirituality was what they called, “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” Albert Mohler condenses some of the findings with this list of beliefs that comprise Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:
1."A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth." 2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions." 3. "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself." 4. "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem." 5. "Good people go to heaven when they die."
Many of the details which followed in the report described the typical teenager who could be very articulate and detailed about musicians and Hollywood stars, but who were very fuzzy when it came to spiritual and biblical themes. So it is not that teenagers are inarticulate in general or cannot recall details, it is that they think in generalized and fuzzy ways when it comes to their souls and their religiosity.
Screwtape seems to be winning. Instead of our culture becoming more and more atheistic, it is becoming more spiritual in fuzzier and fuzzier ways. And when people feel comfortable in their individualized and home-spun spirituality, they have absolutely no need of repentance and forgiveness.
There is a lot in Mohler’s article worth reading through and reflecting upon.