The things that most people count as sins can be amazingly trivial and may have no scriptural basis at all. Yet if we take God's perspective, those things that God accounts as sinful may not get any attention at all from us. How different is our perception of sin from God's? Very. Spoiler alert: this is nothing new.
The prophet Joel speaks God's word that demands genuine confession and contrition from God's people to have any chance at heading off the coming dreaded day of the Lord. They have been doing the rituals and whatever was required, but it was insincere, stale, rote, and meaningless. Joel summons them to rend their hearts and not their garments, as if to say, save the showboat contrition of tearing your clothes and show instead a heart and spirit that reflects a true confession and contrition.
Jesus teaches about the nature of righteousness by spinning his parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee stands tall and feels himself quite righteous and justified, unable to call to mind any sin of his doing. He is thankful that he isn't some sinful, lousy creep like that tax collector. He compliments himself on his ritual of fasting and his offering of a tithe of his earnings.
Meanwhile, the tax collector feels out of place, kneels humbly in the back, hangs his head in shame, and makes no pretense about the level of his sinfulness, doing nothing to justify himself or his failed actions.
It is the tax collector who Jesus says was justified, not the "righteous" Pharisee.
Now, with whom do you identify? The smug, self-righteous Pharisee who justifies himself and cannot name a sin that he has committed? Or the smarmy weasel tax collector who feels the weight of shame and makes a true confession and plea for God's grace?
Watch out for sucker punches in the sermon video below. You've been warned.