Near the end of his ministry, Jesus tells the parable of “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector.” The parable reminds us of the raging conflict taking place since the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: the type of person who’s invited into his company (and, by inference, the person accepted into God’s company).
In this story, Jesus tells of two radically different people who go to pray at the Temple: a Pharisee (who devoted his life to holiness and righteous living) and a tax collector (a collaborator with hated Rome, but who feels unworthy to approach God because of his sins).
What we see here are two “ways” to be commended by God: by earning it ourselves through qualities the world emphasizes or receiving it only through God’s mercy. We have a Pharisee, who compares himself to others who don’t measure up, and a tax collector, who approaches God as a sinner.
Pride versus humility. Stunning his audience, Jesus declares it is the tax collector, and not the “righteous” Pharisee, who is right with God!
We, too, come to God in one of these two ways: confident in our righteousness and accomplishments, or fully aware of our sin and recognizing our need for forgiveness. We need to remember that only the tax collector left “justified” (not guilty) before God.
As you welcome God into this new work week, slowly read this parable in Luke 18.9-14 and place yourself in the story: in line behind either the Pharisee or the tax collector. Ask God to begin rooting out any qualities of pride he calls to mind.
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