LUKE 18:9-14: “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise 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, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Am I a Pharisee? Do I look at others with a sense of superiority and disdain? In the divided country that we live in, do I find myself mocking those who do not agree with me, or do I find myself praying for them?
My father was a gifted operatic tenor. His passion was to sing for the Lord. One of his favorite songs was the Tax Collector and the Publican. Whenever he sang this song at church I could sense that it was more than a song to him. It was a profession of his faith and his understanding of his brokenness before the Lord.
Brokenness is something we lack in this day of division and hatred. It is easy to name call and to compare ourselves with others. Yet, it is difficult to look squarely in the mirror and take an honest look at ourselves. I think the truth is we are really afraid to do so.
When I read this parable of Jesus I don’t know who to identify with. I don’t want to be like the Pharisee who was focused on his own self-righteousness. I also don’t want to be like the Tax Collector who was focused on his brokenness. In a sense I feel lost between the two.
As I read this parable again this morning I pondered over this dilemma. I want to be humble before the Lord. Yet, I don’t want to be satisfied with living in my sin. There has to be something I am missing. And, what I am missing is the true focus of this parable. The true focus is not on the actions of these two individuals. It is on their heart.
One heart was filled with pride. The other was filled with humility. One came boasting. The other came repenting. One came to show his piety. The other came to discover it. One left justified and cleansed. The other left bound in his brokenness.
When I humble my heart before the Lord I realize – “…but by the grace of God there go I.” Whatever victory in my life I have experienced, it is by the grace of God. Whatever cleansing I have received, it is by the grace of God. When I stand before Him I am humbled to be reminded that everything I am is because of Jesus.
This parable was not condoning a lifestyle, or encouraging someone to be content with living in their sin as long as they go to church each Sunday and say a prayer. This parable was calling us to live in recognition of the grace of God in a spirit and posture of humility. It is by grace that we have been saved. It is not of any work or merit that we have offered or done.
Pharisees come in all shapes and sizes and in all political parties. Tax collectors are rare in our day. To walk in humility and recognize our own brokenness calls us to have compassion on others as God has had compassion on us. Can you imagine what would happen in the public arena if we walked in humility one with another?
Humility is not the call we shout to the crowd. Humility is the call of God to one heart, and one heart’s response to this call. While it is true that there is a lack of humility in our society, it is not my call to tell others to be humble. It is my call to humble myself under the mighty hand of God and walk in love towards others. I am always one step away from being Pharisaical. I need God’s grace each and every day.
Lord, help me to humble my heart before You today. Help me to walk in humility toward my fellow man. Give me grace to love everyone with the love that You have given me. In this broken world filled with hate, help me to live as a beacon of Your light, Your life, and Your grace.
In Jesus Name!