9 Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust: 10 “Two people went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of everything I receive.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”
Luke said Jesus told this story “to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust.” Plainly Jesus' main focus was on the Pharisee. As he learned to trust God’s mercy, the tax collector could have prayed more confidently (see Hebrews 4:16: “let’s draw near to the throne of favor with confidence”). The Pharisee couldn’t trust in God’s mercy—it never crossed his mind that he needed any!
- Which of the two stances in this parable are you more often drawn to: looking down on everyone else (at least those who are not as good as you are), or coming to God with a deep personal sense of needing grace? How can God’s love and grace help you maintain a healthy sense of spiritual need without sinking into a sense of contempt, either for others or for yourself?
- “The choice is yours. You can continue to carry the burden of your sins, or you can allow the Lord to take it from you and set you free, as he wants to do…. The process begins with acknowledgment and sorrow.”* Do you find it hard to acknowledge to yourself, others or God that certain things you did were wrong? How can you open your heart to allow God to give you the courage to be honest with God, and if necessary, with others?
Holy God, Hebrews 4:16 invited me to come before you “with confidence,” not because I’m good, but because you are. Help me live trusting your grace, but never arrogant about my goodness. Amen.
* Hamilton, Adam. Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go (Kindle Locations 281-282, 287). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
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Denise serves as the Early Childhood Coordinating Assistant at Church of the Resurrection.