Luke 18:14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
A proverbial Japanese expression comes to mind as I read this: “acorns comparing height.” When we as human beings compare ourselves to one another, given the differences between us and God, it is indeed like acorns comparing height when viewed from the human perspective. The difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector in this story isn’t so much what they did as how they saw themselves: the tax collector knew he was a sinner, and the Pharisee didn’t. Legalistic righteousness is never enough to approach the throne of God, but through the blood of Christ, the grace of God is sufficient for even the “vilest sinner,” as the old hymns put it. That’s not at all to say that we aren’t to strive to live holy lives, repenting immediately when the Holy Spirit brings sin to our attention, but it is to say in the strongest of terms that we aren’t to be proud about it. Such pride in itself is one of the worst sins. Our lives should be filled with the wonder of God’s grace. One hymn expresses that beautifully: “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean. How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!” When we lose that perspective we have lost more than we know. Self-righteousness keeps us from forgiving others, and Jesus said very clearly that cuts us off from being forgiven. (Matthew 6:14-15) Self-righteousness cuts us off from God’s supply on every level, because it is a deception that says we don’t need God. It is at the root of all our complaining about what we get in life. The thief on the cross beside Jesus should be our example: “We are only getting what we deserve.” (Luke 23:41)
I write frequently about God’s grace in rescuing me from the pit of pride I had dug for myself. I was horribly separated from God and yet sure I was closer to Him than those around me. I didn’t approach the Pharisee in this story in terms of toeing the line, but I had his attitude toward whoever wasn’t me. The stupidity of that amazes me, as I look back on it. To receive God’s grace we have to acknowledge that it is unmerited; that is part of the very definition of grace. My task now is to walk in grateful appreciation and obedience, leading others by example as well as by word to draw close to the only Savior. That is something I can’t do on my own, but nothing is impossible for God, and His grace is all I need.
Father, I have experienced Your grace from the moment of my conception. Help me recognize it more and more, allowing it to flow through me to those around me, liberating them from the traps of the devil and drawing them into full fellowship with You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!