9 Jesus also told this parable to some who were confident that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else. 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: extortionists, unrighteous people, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.' 13 The tax collector, however, stood far off and would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!' 14 I tell you that this man went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." - Luke 18:9-14
|The Parable of the Pharisee |
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Realizing that these are two people who already have a concept of God is what is very central to this particular parable. You may as well imagine that these two characters were members of the same church. It is not the case of a non-believer and a believer that is in play but two people who are attempting to approach God. It is the intent of their approach, the obvious difference in their tones and reactions, that reveals Jesus' plea to us.
Approaching God in humility is what I would consider the only thing we 'do' in terms of getting right with God. The Internet Monk provides a wise perspective of this parable, that we can even become trapped into thanking God that we are not like this wretched, self-focused Pharisee. Focusing our attention on Jesus is what humbles us, focusing on what He has done, how He has made the first move towards restoration. We do need to, as a result of this parable, constantly evaluate if the thought process of the Pharisee is creeping into our minds. If they are showing up, then we really need to take a knee before God and re-evaluate our intentions with our relationship with Christ.
Knowing that God is pleased with those that are humble is what provides so much hope. Anyone can come to the God of the universe, as long as they see how limited they are in their present state. And always their present state, not just during the saying of the initial sinner's prayer. We are moved to humbleness throughout the rest of our lives as servants of Jesus. Woe if we begin to find ourselves better than others.