Whose Are You?
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.’ Luke 18:11 (NIV)
I was waiting for a red light to change when I noticed a church billboard: “We see things not as they are, but as we are.” As I reflected on the truth of those words, I realized how often we interpret the circumstances of life through the lens of how we view ourselves. If someone is a cup-half-full kind of person, they’ll more likely positively view their circumstances. For someone who struggles with rejection, someone failing to say hello may be viewed as yet another rejection, when in reality, they may just not have seen the person. The billboard states an amazing truth with the potential to free us to become more aware of who we really are and how to correctly interpret our life’s circumstances. It’s difficult to truly view ourselves correctly when we listen to what others say about us, it’s even more difficult to see ourselves the way Jesus sees us.
This truth comes to life in a parable Jesus tells about two men who prayed. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus spoke of two men who interpreted their identities based on their actions: a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee emphasized his self-righteousness while the tax collector considered himself a sinner. The Pharisee was self-righteousness, but saw himself as righteous. The tax collector was despised by his fellow Jews, but considered himself a sinner. As previously stated, we see things not as they are, but as we are. The Pharisee’s prayers were about himself, to himself, and to impress others. The tax collector prayed for mercy and was so aware of God’s holiness he couldn’t even look toward heaven. For the first time, the tax collector saw things as they were rather than as he believed them to be.
When we base our self worth on what we do, we are as deluded as the Pharisee. The Pharisee’s pride condemned him while the tax collector’s humble faith saved him. God sees us differently than we see ourselves. The One who created us and gave His life for us determines our self worth. If our behavior determined our worth, we would never be able to do enough to feel worthy. When I begin to spiral downward and feel unworthy, I must remember I’m His child. And because I am a child of God, my value comes from Him. Obviously, we can do good, but doing good does not determine our value. A person who hates God can do good, but all he is a person who does good things; his good works do not make him righteous.
We live in a performance-based world where it’s difficult not to transfer the world’s mentality to God’s value system. But because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God accepts us because of who we belong to rather than what we’ve done. I am very thankful it’s not up to me to determine my value, but I can rest in the value God gives me. If what I do determines who I am, I will never feel worthy to call God my Father or do enough to satisfy myself.
God often reminds us in the Bible that He looks upon our hearts instead of solely on how well we perform. In the parable, the Pharisee was pleased with his behavior, but God was displeased with his heart. God and the tax collector were both displeased with the tax collector’s behavior, but God was pleased with his heart. When asked, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind.” When we love God with all our heart, we will view ourselves correctly because we are looking through God’s eyes. Our direction is often determined by our focus. Focus on seeking God. When our focus is on Him, we’ll see things not as they are, but as we are—a child of the King!
Luke 18:9-14; Matthew 22:36-37; Ephesians 1:18; Proverbs 15:30; Proverbs 21:2