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What Gives You the Right?

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Intro: Years ago, because of a car accident I had surgery on my neck and was laid up for about for weeks recuperating.  I was on some pretty heavy medication so I wasn’t able to read as much as I wanted to and was forced into what must be Dante’s seventh circle of Hell, daytime talk television.

One of the things that I remember that came up over and over again was the phrase “What gives you the right to tell me what I ought to do?”  If I want to kill my parents so that I can get money from the government because I’m an orphan, that’s my business.

Today I want to say something that might shock you.  I don’t have any right to tell you how to live your life.  Just because I wear a robe and seem like I know a few strange things doesn’t mean that I have the right to run people’s lives.  If that is true, then what am I doing up here?  Who does have the right to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do?  That is what today’s passage is about.

EVERY ONE OF US HERE TODAY SHOULD ASK THE QUESTION “WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT?”  This is a question asked of Jesus and a question that you should ask yourself.

  1. THE CONFRONTATION.  Vv. 23-27
    1. The Demand- v. 23 “tell us what gives you the right?”  What do they mean by the phrase “These things?”  Likely all of chapter 21-Triumphal entry; temple action; healings; teaching
    2. The Dilemma- v.24-26 Jesus asks them a counter question.  This was not an uncommon method for debate.  Jesus is not sidestepping the question but simply forcing them to see their own hearts.
    3. The Defeat- v. 27 They answer “we don’t know” which is a lie.  Their answer and their hearts condemn them
  2. THE ILLUSTRATION  vv. 28-32  This is the first of three straight parables.  The Lord willing I will get to these in the coming weeks.
    1. The Story vv. 28-30
    2. The Sting  vv. 31-32  Parables have a sting in the tale.  To say that the Prostitutes and Tax Collectors will get into heaven before the religious leaders is shocking. 

                                 i.      Tax collectors were hated because they worked for Rome

                                 ii.      Prostitutes were hated because they were wicked and often followed Roman army camps.

What gives you the right?  Only God has the right to tell us what to do and only when I speak from God’s word do I have the right to tell you that something is right or wrong.

But now I ask you “What gives you the right to think that you are a member of the Kingdom?”  Are you the one who is obedient or the one who says all the right things yet deep down does nothing?


When I was at B.J. I used to try my hand preaching in the Jails in small towns in South Carolina.  One day I was in Union S.C. and I had not been trained in EE so I said to the man in the cell “Do you go to church anywhere?”  He said “No, and I will never step foot in a church again!”  That sounded like a story that I needed to hear so I asked him why.  I heard something very similar to the story in Coleson’s book “The Body” in a chapter entitled “The Right Fist of Fellowship.”  The man told me that he had been attending a church for a few weeks.  He didn’t know it but there was a storm brewing in the Union Baptist Church.  Some members wanted to get rid of the pastor and others wanted to keep him and the church had hardened into two serious camps.  The Sunday my new friend in Jail told me about was the Sunday that the deacons decided that they would try to remove the pastor.  Right in the middle of the service one of the deacons stood up and went to an unoccupied Microphone and started to make the announcement that there would be a meeting to discuss the future of the pastor at this church.  The Pastor had expected such things and had instructed his wife on the piano and his friend on the organ to start playing as loud as they could if something like this happened.  The deacon ran over and pulled the power plug on the organ and another deacon shut the piano lid.

Then (as I remember the story, and it has been a long time so I have to fill in the details with stuff that I made up) the head deacon walked up to the pastor and they treated each other like injured animals hissing under their breath to one another.  After a minute, the deacon turned to go back to his seat and that would have been it, except for the fact that his feet got tangled in the microphone cord and he fell.  There was a gasp from the choir and it convinced the rest of the church that pastor had actually pushed the deacon.  Deacon Ray must have thought so as well, because he jumped up and hit the pastor right in the jaw.  Immediately the entire congregation began to engage in what was their “fight for righteousness.”  The head of the Dorcas society threw a hymnbook at one of the deacons but it missed and landed in the full baptistery.  The pastor finally went down to a right hook and someone grabbed a flower arraignment that had come from a funeral the day before and threw it high up in the air.  Water sprinkled everyone on the right side, and a visiting Presbyterian experienced full immersion when he fell into the baptistery.  The police finally arrived and told some of the men that they should seek medical attention as well as confiscating the pastor’s wife’s knitting needles.

My Jail friend then said that most of the people drove away with a bumper sticker that said “Come visit us at friendly Union Baptist Church.”

What gives you the right?

What gives you the right to say that you are a Christian?  Only Christ apart from him we are  hopeless.

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