Are you an expert at something? I can’t think of anything of which I am truly an expert, but sometimes I act that way! I forget that I’ve been retired from my counseling career for several years, and occasionally I try to “diagnose” the problems of people I meet. I don’t say anything to them of course, but now and then, in my head, I’m thinking, this person is this or that and should probably do this or that to be more effective in life. I tell myself that I do this because I really do care about people and I want to help them. (All my friends who are reading this will now think I’m psychoanalyzing them every time we have coffee together!)
Hell-ooooooooooooooooo? Can you spell “Pharisee?” Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, two guys who happened to be at the temple praying at the same time. The Pharisee “trusted in (himself) that he was righteous” (Luke 18:9), and he put on quite a show there in the church courtyard. Lifting his shining face to the heavens, the Pharisee began, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income” (Luke 18:11). Look at me, everybody! That’s what he was really saying. I’m such an expert at my Jewish faith (feel free to substitute Christian faith, or anything else you like to brag about), and God just loves every word that comes out of my squeaky-clean mouth!
But there’s that old tax collector, a Jew who collects money for the Roman government who occupy their nation! His neighbors hate him, but he has to make a living somehow. So he takes his guilt and remorse about the state of his life, and he lays it all at God’s feet. He’s “beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13). And the Lord says, “You guys just don’t get it! The humble tax collector is more in God’s favor than the boastful Pharisee!” Jesus says, “Keep it simple. Remember: you are a sinner.”
Redeeming Lord, thank You for forgiving us our sins, including that of boasting. Amen