When I imagine myself in Biblical stories, if I’m honest, I am most often the Pharisee. Thankfully, with grace, the Holy Spirit uses that challenging realization to convict and change me, not to shame me.
There isn’t a story that illustrates this more than one in Luke 18:9-14,
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
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.’
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.
This is it: the Pharisee came believing he was already filled and the tax collector came wanting to be filled. The tax collector went home justified, rescued, satisfied with God and the Pharisee did not. The humble tax collector was drawn into more of God. The prideful Pharisee missed out on more of God.
I’m a recovering earnaholic, and put simply an earnaholic is someone striving to perform, please and perfect themselves to earn what God has already given them.
Jesus told this parable because he saw people gathered around him ‘who were confident of their own righteousness,’ and both the Pharisee and myself sometimes believe this. Not because I’m arrogant and think I’m ALL THAT, but because putting confidence in myself means I’m not putting it in Christ, which kind of means I’m refusing the gift. Because that’s ultimately what the gospel, Jesus and grace is — gifts to receive.
The Pharisee came to the temple filled already with his good works. The tax collector came to the temple begging to be filled with the mercy of God. Only one walked away justified in God’s sight.
I know when I have been tempted to legalism, it is motivated by selfish ambition. I want to take my good works and show them off to God. That’s why Ephesians 2:9 is so important. The reason that our salvation is a gift is so that no man may boast. Our salvation isn’t ultimately about us, but about God. God does the work, and he receives the glory. A legalist wants to do the work, earn the favor, and I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say, get the glory.Trillia Newbell, via
We become recipients of the grace and mercy and love of God when we accept our need for it and when we trust Jesus Christ as the only ground for that exchange. He fills the hungry with good and needed things (Psalm 107:8-9). He satisfies the humble heart (James 4:6-10).
How about you? Does your heart mimic the Pharisee’s or the tax collector’s?
Come filled, with a boastful heart, and leave far from God.
Come empty, with a humble heart, and be filled with more of God.
Then, journey on with the freedom and lightness and joy of no longer living a self-absorbed life but a one that is poured out for Jesus — the one who died for us and now lives again. (2 Corinthians 5:15, TPT)