Attitudes that Please God
Dear God, I rejoice and praise You that Your love is forever, yet I experience it anew every day.
Read Luke 18:1–17
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6).
There are three parables in today’s reading. The first (The Persistent Widow), teaches by contrast, not comparison. God is the complete opposite on the Unjust Judge in that he responds quickly to our prayers (8). The other two parables are very different incidents but have a similar theme. They are commendations of humility as the proper gateway to God’s favor. The Pharisee’s problem (being conscious of his status, moral superiority and religious works) is actually a problem for all of us. The human beings are rare who, having done something praiseworthy, do not then congratulate themselves on it. If we manage not to, we then congratulate ourselves on not congratulating ourselves! It is as though we are forever observing ourselves and patting ourselves smugly on the back. By contrast, the tax collector is overwhelmed by his own failure and can hardly look up to God because of it (13). Similarly, the babies Jesus blesses are just babies and have not yet learned to compare themselves with others or to be anything other than what they are. Such humility is the gateway to the kingdom (17) and those who lack it should keep on repenting until they get somewhere.
Jesus knew perfectly well that, having heard this parable, half his hearers would be saying to themselves, “God, I thank you that I am not like that Pharisee!” So this is a parable designed to catch us out, and we might say that it is typical of Jesus’ approach. He knows what is in us and with irony and humor he gently shows us to ourselves. Of all our sins, spiritual pride and self-righteousness are the most unwarranted. The tax collector was justified before God by his recognition that he was a sinner with nothing to commend him to God, an unqualified candidate for divine mercy. By so humbling himself, proclaims Jesus, it became certain that in due time God would exalt him (14).
When have you been like a Pharisee? Like the tax collector? What accounts for the difference?
Lord, I need the gift of discernment so that I can see myself as I am before You. I pray that my first priority will be to exalt You.
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