A Worthless Payment

In Soul Food on February 6, 2012 by The Spillover

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

–Luke 18:9-14

Big lesson here that we can’t miss.

The self-righteous religious man is claiming his merits, listing them to God, patting himself on the back:

I fast twice a week! I give tithes of all I get! Thank God I’m righteous, and unlike these filthy people!

Self-righteous (which is no righteousness at all), bombastic, elitist, superficial.

Read between the lines and you can see these words:

God – look what I am! Look what I do! You owe me!

In stark contrast is the tax collector.

Standing far off, he wouldn’t even lift his eyes to heaven.

Reverence toward God. Shame toward his sin.

He beat his breast out of gut-level regret and helplessness.

“God!” he begged, “be merciful to me, a sinner!”

He’s coming to God with no payment in his hands, just truth on his lips. He’s not trying to bribe the Judge; he knows he’s guilty, and he’s crying out for mercy to the only one who can give it. He knows there is no hope for him other than grace from God, given because of the love of God.

We can learn so much from this parable.

Oh Lord, may we never come to you with a worthless human payment. May we always see you as the one who justifies freely those who will simply admit the truth, and may we live in that grace forever.

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