Lord, my righteousness lies in You.
Read LUKE 18:9–17
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 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. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
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.’
14 “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.”
The Little Children and Jesus
15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“God is the archetypal Father; all other fatherhood is a more or less imperfect copy of his perfect fatherhood.” (F.F. Bruce, 1910–90)
In these stories, Jesus is scathing in his condemnation of self-righteousness – the Pharisee praying in the temple seems not to be praying as much as bragging within himself about how good and holy he is. He has fallen into the trap of comparing himself with the stigmatized sinners in his community. In vivid contrast, the tax collector approaches God in genuine humility, aware of his own sinfulness, and simply pleads for mercy. Jesus is clear about who goes home justified before God.
Self-righteousness is dangerous, not least because it blinds us to our failures and brings about a misplaced confidence in ourselves and our achievements. It leaves us unable to learn or receive from God as life becomes all about us and our self-reliance. One of the things most notable about the faith of young children is how unaware of themselves they are. They are not self-conscious and certainly not self-absorbed – they are able to live freely in the moment, trusting God and others with a beautifully simple faith. Jesus says we must receive God’s kingdom like a child – the kingdom belongs to such as these.
Children know how to trust the adults on whom they depend, and they don’t hesitate to come to loving parents for help and guidance. Jesus is inviting us to come to God in a similar way – in simple innocence, remembering that we are sinners in need of his mercy, but more focused on the character of the God to whom we come. He is a God of lavish grace.
Father, teach us how to come to You with the simple and innocent faith of a child, totally trusting in our good Father. Please deliver us from comparison and being consumed with ourselves and lead us to be consumed with who You are instead.
Lord, we strip ourselves of the pride that so easily besets us as we ask You to make us more like the very children You blessed in today’s account.