DayBreaks for 10/07/13 – Point of Reference
Luke 18:9-14 (NLT – Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 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.”
When we read this story we probably all cringe at the audacity of the Pharisee. It is hard to imagine someone being so self-righteous and sure about how good they are! I don’t know if this was a parable, or if Jesus was describing an actual episode he’d witnessed. It has the ring of a factual accounting to it, in my opinion.
While is sees unthinkable that someone would think this highly of themselves, haven’t we all know people who were over the top in their righteousness, who see it as their God-given call to correct everyone else’s faults while not even seeing their own? But that’s not so much the point I want to make today. It appears that this Pharisee really did all the things he claims to have done. He may well have been very righteous in his actions and religious observations in comparison to the tax collector. But that’s not really the point, is it? As William Barclay observed:
“But the question is not, “Am I as good as my fellow-men?” The question is, “Am I as good as God?” Once I made a journey by train to England. As we passed through the Yorkshire moors I saw a little whitewashed cottage and it seemed to me to shine with an almost radiant whiteness. Some days later I made the journey back to Scotland. The snow had fallen and was lying deep all around. We came again to the little white cottage, but this time its whiteness seemed drab and soiled and almost grey in comparison with the virgin whiteness of the driven snow.
“It all depends what we compare ourselves with. And when we set our lives beside the life of Jesus and beside the holiness of God, all that is left to say is, ‘God be merciful to me—the sinner.'”
Lord, have mercy…for we are all sinners in need of Your grace!
PRAYER: Lord, we are totally unworthy of Your grace and goodness, yet we beg for it, trusting that we shall receive grace to save us in the moment of our deaths. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2013 by Galen C. Dalrymple.
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