9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
This parable is not for everyone....its for those who are:
1. Confident of your own righteousness?
What is it that makes you righteous?
Stood – on his own two feet
Alone – self sufficient
Thanksgiving – good self image
Comparative – well better than all the rest
Negative – look at what you don't do
Positive – look at what good things you managed
What is wrong with being confident?
Isn't spiritual assurance a good thing? Many Christians are not sure that they are loved by God, acceptable, useful, called – and it hamstrings them. They are like someone in a relationship who suffers from pathological insecurity: jealous, testing, offended. I think its that word “own”. Your “own” righteousness is not so good. When we share our experience of God (see PS Lent #1) we are not bragging about ourselves, but about our God.
- Condemning Everyone Else?
It's not just about being righteous, or trying to be. It's not just about being confident. It's about seeing life as a race – even spiritual life. The sort of righteousness that is based on being “not as bad as them” is very popular. Its where we get Jeremy Kyle from. The News of the Word. Phone hacking. OK Magazine. Big brother TV. We love things that allow us to sit back and say “Well, I'm not as fat/ stupid/ lazy/ dirty/ hoarding/ embarrassing/ violent/dishonest as that person – so I'm OK!” At least I'm not a tax collector/ or a Pharisee for that matter... Jesus said that he did not come to condemn the world but that world might be saved through him. If sharing your story will help save someone else – share it!
God have mercy on me a sinner – says the sinner.The best that we can hope for is mercy – not justice. A famous leaders son went off the rails and was often in trouble with the police. He had run out of second chances and was to appear on a charge that usually held a custodial sentence. At the support prayer meeting before the case another church leader prayed vehemently for “justice”. “Stop!” called the beleaguered father in horror, “I don't want justice. Justice means prison. I want mercy!”
We know that, however much we succeed in living God's life, we will fail. And we won't therefore be surprised, disappointed, dispirited, despairing. We will allow him to pick us up and keep going. As Michel Quoist puts it in his Prayers for life: “Isn't it mostly your pride that is hurt?”
Make sure that you go home justified.