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scapegoats in Jersey

He [Jesus, around AD 32] also told this parable to some who persuaded themselves that they were righteous, and exoutheneo’d [scapegoated] others: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18: 9

Some things in our lives happen so often that they are absolutely normal – and therefore completely unnoticed. One of those things is the use we make, every day and many times a day, of scapegoats.

How do we use others as scapegoats? By identifying their faults, failures and weaknesses.

So often does this happen that it’s unwise to be the first to leave a meeting. Why? Because talk inevitably turns to an unfavourable analysis of a person who is not there. And the agreement of the group is often that the missing person is in the wrong – whereas all in the group are AOK.

Yes, that’s how we usually do it. We scapegoat another without telling them. But sometimes the group goes on to scapegoat another publically.

Why would the group scapegoat publically? Is it for the same reason that an individual scapegoats another person covertly? If so, what reason is that?
‘Do you think that you deserve forgiveness? If you do, you are not a Christian.' (D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preacher, 1899-1981)

The Pharisee in the Jerusalem Temple in Jesus’ story in bold above gives us the answer. He scapegoated the tax collector. (A tax collector in Jesus’ days in Galilee and Jerusalem was authorized by Rome to collect taxes for Rome. As long as he raised from his district the amount which Rome required he could keep the surplus as his remuneration. No one knew the true facts.)

OK. But why then did this Pharisee scapegoat him? The reason is there in bold. Jesus told this parable to some who persuaded themselves that they were righteous.

How have I persuaded myself that I’m “righteous”, that I have justice and right on my side? Actually, it’s terribly easy for me to do that. Very few find it difficult – it’s so easy that it gets done without a moment’s hesitation. A person is righteous in his own eyes.

But if even the slightest doubt arises that one might be in the wrong it’s a good idea to have a strategy to deal with that doubt, slight though it may be. That strategy is scapegoating. It’s automatic. Think about how good you are in general and then think in particular about the faults and failures in others. Their faults and failures make one feel much better. The Pharisee did it well. “I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” “I’m a good-living believer in God.”

The Pharisee therefore scapegoated the tax collector – to remove all residual doubt from his own mind. But did it convince God? What do you think?

Way back in history – in the fourteenth century BC around 3,300 years ago – the people of Israel were instructed to use a scapegoat as a picture of the removal of their sins. Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.
‘Payment God cannot twice demand,/ First at my bleeding Saviour’s hand,/ And then again at mine.’ (A M Toplady, Hymn writer, 1740-1778)

When today we scapegoat someone like the tax collector, will that be effective in making us righteous before God?

And if we instead ask God to be merciful towards us – to take away our sins through a substitute dying on his behalf – will that be effective?     Really effective?       In the Temple?     Before Almighty God?
ollect yours.
Richard Syvret

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