11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Remember the tee shirt that had: ‘Jesus is my homeboy’ on it? I thought for sure lightning would strike. What familiar arrogance in that statement, worn by the most un-Christian people you’re likely to never meet in Hollywood. Their desire is to reduce the Son of God to the Age of Aquarius.
As Paul says in Romans 6:15: What then? Shall we sin because we not under law, but under grace? May it never be.
I add, may it never be so with us! Christ tells us He has called and chosen us out of the world. In that regard, we are not like others, but we are not to keep such status to ourselves. He also commands us to tell others.
If we’re honest, though, there are times we’ve felt a little more held together than those around us, keeping our composure in the midst of the madness, watching others get caught up.
I don’t know if any of us have prayed such as this Pharisee in our Lord’s parable, but we’ve certainly felt the seed of it grow at certain times. That, in and of itself, is not an evil thing, as long as we remember Paul’s admonition:
Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of G-d, 9 not of works, lest any man should boast.’
In the watches of the night, we are confronted with our own stock and store of how we’ve handled the day’s events and those G-d has brought across our path, how we’ve performed before our cloud of witnesses, and whether or not we were role models for how to behave and perform under pressure.
And again, if we’re honest, most times we come up short.
But let’s always remember that in fact, with enough time and circumstance, we are equally capable of performing the most reprehensible act as anyone in solitary confinement under the worst jail in the world.
We have it easy here. Need water? Buy a bottle, or turn on the tap.
What if we had to walk miles, with hundreds of others, to a drying pool of it in the middle of a hot, putrid rainforest, on muddy roads runny with sewage? I’ll not belabor the point: your imagination and self-knowledge will fill in what you’re capable of.
Stay humble before G-d, and penitent. And thankful, realizing that we are all, in fact, just like everyone else. Were it not for the graces and gifts, the blessings and favor, and the delivery from trials by the hand of our Father, and the mercy of His Son, anchoring ourselves in the Spirit and Truth of His Word, it could always be us in solitary confinement, under the jail.
Imagine the darkness, the silence, the exposure to vermin and weather, the stench of your unwashed body, and the reek of sin on your unclean soul.
Will you not ask for mercy? He is faithful and just to forgive.
Since He sees in the darkness as we see in the light, which He created, He knows exactly where you are, and what you’d do.
Would you not be justified before Him?
Therefore I pray:
Father in Heaven,
Your Son tore the veil, that we may approach the heavenly throne without fear of death. Your Word says to approach boldly, but some have taken it to mean with an arrogance and familiarity they would not show a powerful earthly man, but have no problem displaying it before a divine King.
Even in our anger, our limited scope of Your plan for us and the lives of our loved ones, Your hand giving and taking according to Your will, let us pour out all that’s in our hearts in humility.
We would not be arrogant, for the very next breath we take is by Your pleasure.
Let us remember that Jesus died for the Pharisee as well as the tax collector, and has left the choice to follow and believe to every person who has heard His words.
Let us remember that you, O G-d, take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and it is Your desire that all would come to repentance.
You sent Your Son to prepare the narrow path, and we are grateful, but we can also hoard the grain of Your truth in our hearts, that we might feel justified before You.
Help us to know, Father, that in those moments it is we who are not like the tax collector, justified before Heaven, and forgiven in Your sight.
I ask it in Jesus’ name, believing I’ve received.