Today’s Reading: Luke 18:9-14
Daily Lectionary: 2 Samuel 6:1-19; 1 Corinthians 9:1-23
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector illustrates the principle found throughout the Bible: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 29:23, Matthew 18:1-4, Luke 1:52, 14:11, James 4:6,10, 1 Peter 5:5-6).
Jesus presents two characters we easily recognize: the ultra-conservative, far right religious type and the extortionist. As Jesus begins the story, most people would assume He would hold up the religious Pharisee and condemn the greedy tax collector. But Jesus does the opposite. He describes a Pharisee who only wants to tell God how good he is and a publican who knows and feels his guilt. The contrite sinner is justified, while the arrogant prude is not.
As religiously serious people (you’re reading a devotion after all!), we easily relate to the Pharisees. While their religious adherence was exemplary in many ways, they could be self-righteous and unloving. This particular Pharisee’s problem was spiritual pride, thinking himself so good that he didn’t need God’s grace. The tax collector, on the other hand, knew his sin and knew he needed God’s mercy.
The tax collector was an outcast of society. So imagine someone today who is like him. The drug user? That creepy guy who’s really into porn? The girl who sleeps around? The kids struggling with their gender identity or sexual orientation? You get the picture. Substitute them for tax collector and you get the modern version of the story. The point is, even those who have made terrible choices and have a life full of obvious sins can humble themselves before God and receive His grace. But those who are spiritually proud will not receive the Savior, because they do not understand that they need saving.
Whether our lives more closely resemble the Pharisee or the tax collector, we get in trouble when we think too highly of ourselves. As Luke explains: We dare not trust in ourselves and treat others with contempt. The goal is to trust in Jesus (not in ourselves) and treat others with love and mercy, because in Jesus, God has so loved us. Sinners who look to Jesus are justified–and not just the really religious sinners, but even the really bad ones, too. God’s grace really is that amazing. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen
Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me. Died that I might live on high, Lives that I might never die. As the branch is to the vine, I am His and He is mine. (“Chief of Sinners Though I Be” LSB 611, st.1)
Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch