“The Parable the Tax Collector and the Pharisee”
We love the song, “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standin in the need of prayer. Not my mother or my father but me O Lord.” Jesus tells the story of two men coming to the temple for prayer. He calls them a tax collector and a Pharisee. We could call them an accused and an accuser. We could picture a Ukrainian and a Russian. It might be the rich man and Lazarus. The labels only point to two men at opposite ends of the religious spectrum. One is a good guy trying to follow all the rules and one is the one who knows he has blown it and would never be welcome in a church. The “accused” stands in the corner, too ashamed to even raise his eyes to heaven.
Too often we divide people that way, those who can approach God boldly and those who feel outside the realm of grace. Jesus puts a twist in the story though by saying the person who humbled himself or herself before God left “justified” rather than the one who focused on his own righteousness. Luke reports the story as being told by Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, to the cross. I would suggest that the road to health requires our dependence on righteousness declared by God, not on our own good lives. It is so easy to draw lines between the good guys and the bad guys and usually we are the good guy but oh so very often that is a messy line. Our courts are full of people debating where that line belongs. We are not wise enough to make that decision about our lives much less someone else’s. We must depend on someone, God, who is objective, unprejudiced, rooting for all people involved and loving and understanding the messes we get ourselves in.
Our challenge today is to see the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in myself and humble myself before God, trusting in the righteousness that we’ll hear about next week, during Passion Week. Humility is hard. Blessings as you turn the spotlight of God’s truth on your life today. He is eager to listen and forgive.