9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
A question I always ask myself when studying the parables of Jesus is, “Who am I in this story?” It’s a question you may have been encouraged to ask as well. Like me, you might often feel drawn to identify with the “good” or “right” person in the parables. Anytime I find myself leaning that way, I challenge my own opinion of myself. When preparing to write this devotional, I found myself having to do that very thing.
I am incredibly aware that I am unworthy of the grace I have received, and I often pray like the tax collector. It would be easy for me to stop there and feel comfortable that I am on the right side of Jesus’ warning. But as I dug deeper into His words, I realized Jesus is not only talking about my posture in prayer. He wants me to consider pride in my life as a whole. Unfortunately, when thinking broadly about pride, I am the Pharisee more often than I want to admit. It is not that I am never the tax collector, but I feel convicted as I read this parable to identify areas of my life where I am blind to my pride.
In this context, pride is the moment when we feel we are justified without God. As I sit in that truth, I am reminded of the great divide in our country that often bleeds over to divides in our churches and Christian communities. I am reminded of moments in my own heart where my “rightness” was based on what I believe is right on those issues. How many times have I looked at the other side of the conversation and felt righteous in my thinking? How many times have you? That is what the Pharisee is doing in this parable. He is looking at the tax collector and seeing his own choices and behaviors as making him more righteous. The moment we see our rightness with God as being based on what we do or how we think, we are letting pride into our life.
Our faith leads us to a pursuit of living in the ways of Jesus, but we must be careful not to confuse our works with our righteousness. Sanctification involves God opening our eyes to the pride in our hearts so that we can surrender those parts to Him. We participate in that process when we invite Him to challenge our assumptions about ourselves.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Whom do you identify with most in this parable? Do you need to challenge your opinion of yourself?
- What are the situations, topics, or beliefs where you feel righteous?
- Ask God to open your eyes and heart to areas of pride you need to surrender to Him.
Pray for Bereket and Becca, global workers in our church family. Pray for wisdom, next steps, and a deep sense of God’s presence.