Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus realizes that there are those in the crowd who are quite proud of their spiritual lives. The Pharisee has been following all the rules and has been tithing. These are all good things but not when they are used to justify one’s place before God. The Pharisee was trusting in himself and his own abilities rather than trusting in God. He was feeling self-sufficient about his faith because of the pride that he had in his religious practices and good works. He even tells God how good he is and this is a problem.
Jesus presents the tax collector as a contrast. Here is a man who is humble before God, understanding that he is undeserving of grace. Grateful for all that God has done for him, he trusts in God alone for his salvation.
Our posture before God speaks volumes about where we are placing our trust. For those who have been in the church for a long time much can be taken for granted. Eventually, living for the Lord, having devotions, paying our tithes and offerings, and going to church can become routine. If there isn’t a freshness in the heart we can become like the Pharisee who began to trust in himself.
I’m afraid our churches may be filed with those who believe that they are righteous before God because of what they have done personally. They may be tempted to stand before God and demand a particular response because of how they’ve lived. It’s that temptation to tell God that my child must be healed because I’ve been so good.Or the temptation to tell God that because I’ve been faithful my business must succeed. Or that my marriage should be perfect because I’ve worked hard at loving God and my spouse. We can slip into the place of the Pharisee pretty easily and I think Jesus knew that.
We are all sinners saved by grace. Even if we’ve been walking with the Lord for a long time, we must come before God in humble gratitude. All that we have is because of the Lord’s intervention in our lives. We have no right to demand anything. We have already received more than we deserve.
When we begin to trust in ourselves and think that we are sufficiently righteous we will be tempted to tell God what to do. God’s children are invited into a holy relationship in which we are daily gripped by the grace of our Lord. It is here that we live in humility for we are overwhelmed by the presence of Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father. In the throne room of God’s presence we discover that depending on ourselves is complete folly and worship of our Creator sustains.
Lord, thank you for your incredible love and patience with us. Amen.