“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.” – C.S. Lewis
How often have you heard the response, “Well, I have my pride!” That statement is so true because pride shows up in the lives of every person, sometimes without us even recognizing it. In Luke 18:9-13 we read the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
In this parable, Jesus gives us the reason for His sharing it: “Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else.” There are two characters in this story. One of them a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. These two men couldn’t be any more different. The Pharisee was very pious and took stock in his attempt to keep the law. The tax collector in his own eyes and as well in everyone else’s, was an outcast. Both approach the Lord in prayer. The Pharisee boasts about his own-self sufficiency. The other begs for mercy because he knew he was a disappointment to himself, the people he worked for and his God.
Remember the reason Christ presented the parable.? It was for “those who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else.” The Pharisee’s prayer was exactly that—a self-serving attempt to tell God how righteous he was. It reeked of vanity and ego. Jesus then tells His audience what they needed to learn from this story: “I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18: 14).
The lesson is that this tax collector went to his home justified (the Pharisee did not). The tax collector was not justified by any of the deeds of the law, but by his repentant, humble approach before God, by his acknowledgment of sin, and by his faith in God demonstrated by calling upon His mercy for forgiveness. At the end of verse 14, Christ reminded the audience that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” God does give grace to the humble. The apostle James wrote: But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6). “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” (James 4:10).
The apostle Peter reiterated the same thoughts: “In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. “(1 Peter 5:5-6).
The Pharisee and the tax collector were figurative of typical attitudes that are common even in our age today. One man was full of pride and was quite self-righteous. The other was humble; he recognized his sins and asked for God’s mercy and was justified. Which one will you be?
- How does God give grace to the humble?
- What can we do this week to practice humility?