S (Scripture): Luke 17:9 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.”
O (Observation): Jesus gives us a unique insight into the interior faith life of two individuals. The Pharisee sees himself as superior to others according to religious standards: separating himself from the “unclean sinners,” fasting, tithing. The tax collector sees himself as completely unworthy of God’s grace, and seeks only one thing: mercy!
And as Jesus continues, the tax collector does receive that mercy, he is justified – made right with God.
When Mary sing of the joy of bearing the Son of Man in her womb, she introduces this theme of humility to us. In Luke 1, we hear Mary sing of Jesus’ future role in bringing humility to the haughty (the Pharisee) and lifting up the lowly (the tax collector).
Luke 17: 52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty.
A (Application): Why do we get so caught up in us being right and the other being wrong? I’m not saying we can’t believe in something fully and objectively. I just think there is more to life than proving yourself right and the other wrong.
When we live life only guided by right belief or right practice, we tend to deny the room the Holy Spirit normally uses for transformation. When we only worry about truth, we become blind to the fact that we might not possibly be 100% right.
Throughout Scripture, God-Jesus-The Spirit constantly turns things upside-down. The King of Kings is born in a stable. The King dies on a cross. The Son of God hangs out with “sinners and tax collectors.” Objectively speaking, these things are failures of a King, especially the King of Kings. On the surface, Jesus does things opposite of the way they were normally accepted. Even though Jesus’ actions seem like failure, what they mean for us is salvation.
And so, Jesus was wrong, according to the religious standards of the day. But then, perhaps he was simply bringing God’s people back in line with where they were supposed to already be. And those who are humble, like the tax collector in this parable, realize the err of their ways. And in his humility, the tax collector is justified.
What does it take to be justified? A humble heart? Submission to the Lord? Admitting… maybe I’ve erred and I simply don’t know it?
Perhaps all of the above.
P (Prayer): Lord, you bring me joy, today, with your call to humility. Help me to lift others up this day. Amen.