9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’
14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
This passage captures the character of true prayer.
If we trust in our own self-righteousness and regard others with contempt, there is a problem. Jesus showed that the issue is the posture of our heart as we pray. Are you focused on what God needs to change in your life, or are you too busy being distracted by all the shortcomings of others?
Comparison is a nasty and dangerous game. The enemy loves to keep us preoccupied with the sin in everyone else’s life because then we can’t address our own sin, which is the only thing we have the power to control.
If we are inattentive to our depravity and focused on the weaknesses of others, we can’t advance in becoming more like Christ. It’s so easy to become hypocritical in this way. We must be careful to guard our hearts from focusing on the wrong things. Otherwise, our growth will be replaced with gossip.
Instead of progress, there will be pride.
Instead of grace, there will be grumbling.
Instead of concern, there will be complaints.
Let’s do all we can to pray with a heart more like the tax collector and less like the Pharisee.
- What does this parable have to say about how to be justified and how not to be justified? Whose work do we depend on for justification before God?
- Why is it important to approach God from a place of humility?
- Pray for God to remove every ounce of pride in you. With humility, submit your requests to Him and plead for His help.