Read: Luke 18:9-14.
Vs. 13 – “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.’
The first church I worked at for my Christian Service while at college was a small but growing congregation. This was Kitchener, ON and it was at the time of Octoberfest. As we approached the church building on a Sunday morning, we saw the brick church sign demolished. The story was that a drunk driver had missed the bend in the road, climbed the curb and smashed directly into the sign. A dear elderly saint whom I had grown to appreciate came up to me and told me the story. She then told me she was praying for the young men who had been hurt in the crash. Then she stated quite dramatically: “I prayed that they would get what they deserve.” I was pretty sure it was not grace she was thinking about.
We often look on those differently who are unlike us, especially if they are not Christians. The Pharisee in our text, at prayer, proclaimed his good deeds and then pointed his finger, saying, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people … —or even like this tax collector.” He was full of himself! By his way of thinking, he didn’t even need God’s mercy. Sometimes that is our attitude and often without really thinking about it.
Then Jesus described the vastly different prayer of a person who saw that he needed mercy. Tax collectors were seen as traitors, leeches on society, people to be avoided. And this was not someone claiming any self-earned righteousness! Without pretensions and with an aching heart, the man pleaded for God’s mercy.
Pride sees no room for mercy, no need for forgiveness. Grace has no place when we’re full of ourselves. Jesus declared the tax collector justified.
Jesus’ parables make us look at ourselves. With whom do we identify—the Pharisee or the tax collector? What does Jesus hear when we pray?
Lord, thank you for making us look at ourselves. Help us also to see how we pretend to be better than some of our neighbours. We need your grace. Amen.