There is a huge message here for us today in these short verses. Jesus’ example is just crystal clear. Can’t you just picture the scene? As we read through the New Testament, I don’t know about you, but I get a pretty tainted view of the Pharisees. They are supposed to be upright, holy people. They think they are at least. Time and again I am left shaking my head at their lack of faith, or maybe I should say misdirected faith.
Even today, some church leaders take on an attitude that they are better than the rest. As the wife of a pastor, I know we are sinners in need of a Savior just like everyone else. I was often asked to have my husband, David pray because they thought his prayers carried more weight or something. Not true. We are crying out to God, just like the tax collector in the story. As we should. We all are in need of God’s mercy.
There are a lot of people today who are turned off by the church and organized religion. It’s easy to understand when we see corruption, back-stabbing, adultery, etc. happening amongst church leaders. Even those who attend church sometimes put on a happy face and show up for an hour on Sunday morning and then return to their sinful behaviors. Hypocrites? Maybe, but more likely just sinners that haven’t truly humbled themselves before God.
Yes, we are all sinful by nature. We need to acknowledge that. God wants us to bring our dirty laundry out into the open and ask Him to wash it clean. He doesn’t want us to stuff it into the closet and come seeking praise and glory for our lives. We have undoubtedly done some marvelous things and been good servants, but we should never seek glory for those things. We should not rely on the good things we do to get us into God’s good graces and ultimately receive a free ticket into heaven.
Jesus’ words here, “for the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored” are beautiful and poignant. Next time you pray, come to God as the tax collector and empty yourself before God. Don’t stop doing the upright, noble, helpful, servant hearted things you’ve always done, just stop seeking glory and recognition for them. God is the only one we need to please. He sees what we do; we don’t need to remind him with our words.
Let’s pray. Lord, have mercy on me. I am a sinner who repents of all the wrongs I have done. I am a mess without you in my life. Wash me clean so I can be fresh and alive to do your work. Show me who you want to bless this day. Give me the courage to step outside of my comfort zone and be the disciple I long to be. Forgive me when I seek recognition. All glory and honor belong to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.