Scripture reading for April 16th: Luke 18:1-17
It’s easy to be self-righteous! We are prone to think very highly of ourselves and focus on the other people who are ‘worse’ sinners than we are. Church people are very often the best at this, because they think that going to church or doing something for the poor brings them into special merit with God. But God is not as impressed with our attempts to look good as we are. Jesus told a story to help His disciples better understand their need for humility.
“To some who were confident in their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told them this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'” (Luke 18:9-13)
The Pharisee went home as he came–proud and full of himself! He was oblivious to his real need of deliverance from pride. He was eager to see the faults of others, but missed the ‘log’ of self-righteousness in his own eye! He was confident in himself and his own ability to do what God required by keeping the law and earning his standing with God and failed to ask God for mercy for this fatal sin. To the rest of the world, it probably looked like this Pharisee had it right, but Jesus saw it otherwise!
Any Jewish person who worked as a tax collector was considered a ‘sinner’ by the society of Jesus’ day. But this man was humble and recognized his need of forgiveness. He confessed that he was a sinner and took ownership of his own mistakes. He did not blame God or claim to be a victim of someone else’s sin. He humbly asked God for the mercy he knew he needed. This attitude caught Jesus’ attention and Jesus said that this man went home justified! “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14b)