Sunday, December 23, 2012



We come now to the 2nd story to focus the disciples' faith. Here in Luke 18:9-14 Jesus shares a parable that is most contemporary for us today:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' 

Luke warns us right away that Jesus was targeting a certain group of people-those who are confident of their own righteousness and look down on everyone else. Then he shares the parable.

It's obvious that Jesus is going to make some important comparisons for us to consider. Two men went to the temple to pray-a Pharisee and a tax collector.
NOTE the Pharisee's stance in prayer: FIRST-He stood by himself to pray.
 SECOND-He exalts himself right in front of God. THIRD-He looks down on the tax collector as less than righteous. FOURTH-He lists his checklist of righteousness, exalting himself even more.

"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.'

NOTE the tax collector's stance in prayer: FIRST-He stood at a distance. SECOND-He didn't look up to heaven. THIRD-He beat his breasts in humility. FOURTH-He prayed a very brief prayer.

NOW NOTE what Jesus' evaluation was of these two men: "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."
Bottom-line is the Pharisee's prayers didn't even reach the ceiling and the tax collector's prayers reached the heart of God. And the result is that only one goes home justified. The problem? Jesus sums it up with "For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
Two things are most clear to me from this parable: FIRST-The Pharisee's checklist of performance and status was all he had to talk about before God. Since he chose to exalt himself, God will surely humble him.

SECOND-The tax collector does not exalt himself at all. On the contrary, he throws himself into God's mercy. Since he chose this stance to humble himself, God will surely exalt him.

This story and its applications are so right on target for me. I am continually setting out to do something-even something good and righteous, laying out my plans and asking God for His help. What's the difference between me and the Pharisee? Oh, there is a difference, but very, very little. Sometimes by my actions I am putting forth my list of accomplishments and performance, thinking them to be so important.

It is so difficult to throw myself on the mercy of God, depending and waiting for Him to lead out. This doesn't mean to not use your giftedness, but it's all about dependency. Am I depending on God to lead out and empower what I do? And, am I willing to leave all the results-good and not so good, to Him.

One of the thoughts that helps to hold my focus together is found in Psalm 127. I repeat it to myself frequently. Check it out. Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. I desperately want God to be my builder and to watch out for my security. How about you?