by Rev Wendy Tay
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.”
It is interesting to note that Jesus began the story on confidence. There is nothing wrong with being confident and Jesus is certainly not against anyone who is confident and secured. In fact, we are encouraged to have confidence and to boast. (Phil 3:3)
In this story, Jesus examines the posture of one’s heart and tells us to go beyond the religiosity of prayer and spiritual disciplines, examples fasting and tithing.
What Jesus is interested here is the posture of one’s heart when he or she comes before God. The story opens up for us to reflect on our relationship and hearts before God.
Before God, the prayers uttered by the Pharisee and the tax collector revealed much and the contrast of their posture was very apparent.
The posture of the Pharisee was confidence in his own righteousness. One who is near to self is far from God. Such a heart will always look up to God and compare with others. Such a heart will always label others and look down on their shortcomings. Such a heart will demand acknowledgment from God and from others. Such a heart will ensure sacrifices will be made known to God and to others.
The other posture was confidence in God’s righteousness. Though the tax collector stood at a distance, his heart was nearer to God. Such a heart acknowledges the mercy and grace of God. Such a heart will lower oneself to say, “I need God”. Such a heart will not compare and will always be thankful. Such a heart will not strive for acknowledgment because God’s righteousness qualifies his or her acceptance.
Jesus said, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The tax collector lowered himself in a distance before God but he gained a closer distance into the heart of God.
What is your posture before God today?
Is your posture one of comparison or one of thanksgiving?
Do you try hard to seek acknowledgment or would you let God qualify your acceptance today?