Where does your righteousness come from?
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.’
There are many things that strike me in this passage. Jesus tells this story to “some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else” – who we can assume to be people like the Pharisees and teachers of the law. He blatantly uses them as a character in the parable and slams their attitude/posture towards God. To me, it looks like the Pharisee in the parable isn’t actually “praying to God” but rather building himself up – “look at how good I am, look at what I have done”. He trusts in his own righteousness and exalts himself. He compares his righteousness to the tax collector.
The tax collector however, understood that he was a “sinner”. He got it. He knew that righteousness could not come from himself and so throws himself upon the mercy of God. He humbles himself before God. We read that this man goes home justified before God. We’ve seen a pattern in previous chapters of Luke of how Jesus exalts the low and humble rather than the perceived “righteous”, that is, he exalts the little children, the sick, the poor, the broken.
What is my posture before God? Am I confident in my own righteousness to be justified before God? Do I look at others to get a sense of my righteousness? We all have a great need for mercy in order to be found righteous. I am no more “righteous” than you. We are all at the mercy of God. Jesus, God with us, humbled himself to death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-11) so that we could be justified through him. How amazing it is to marvel at the mercy of our God. Do you throw yourself on His mercy alone?
Head: What should we learn from the posture of the tax collector in the passage?
Heart: What is your posture before God? Do you cast yourself on his mercy or get your confidence in your own righteousness?
Hands: Spend some time in prayer today. Reflect over the great mercy that God has shown you (and us) in Jesus. Let this shape the way you pray.
God, have mercy on me, a sinner. A sinner who is undeserving of your mercy and grace, yet you lavish it upon me anyway. Let my heart rely on your righteousness alone. May your Spirit be shaping my life to be completely dependent on you, to cast myself on your mercy.
In Jesus name, amen.
A song to listen to: Mercy Mercy
Living Church – Creek Road