Luke 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

I once had a friend who was really into throwing darts. One night they invited me to “league night” at a pub here in Houston. I was amazed. The place was packed. I hadn’t seen anything like that since the smoky crowds at the night leagues at the bowling alley in my hometown. There were a lot of people who were really good at throwing darts.

Kelley and I look at our boys in wonder. Both of them grew up with wide ranging interests and they always ended up being pretty good at what they did. They both just had a knack for picking things up quickly and developing a passion for them.

I’m sitting out the Pokemon Go craze. This isn’t hard for me to do. But millions of people jumped right in, creating yet another sub-culture of people who get really good at doing something that cause others to just shake their heads.

People have the capacity to get good at doing lots of things. And, in this world, they get rewarded for that. So it only makes sense that we would bring the same mentality into our practice of Christianity.

Some people get really good at it. It seems to come easy for them. Sunday mornings come and they are in worship. Every week. They volunteer for things. They give time and money. They continue to learn. Their lives have integrity. These salt of the earth people amaze me. I don’t know where the church would be without them.

But the trouble is…and this is hard to say but I’m going to say it anyway….like anything else, getting good at something, in and of itself, doesn’t say all that could be said. I can well imagine someone who is very good at all things “church” and yet, deep down inside, has never let the Holy Spirit budge them an inch. The faith is not challenging to them because they have learned how to “manage” it to fit their own best interests.

There’s some of me in that. There’s some of all of us in that. And there was certainly some of that in the prayers of the self-righteous person who didn’t impress Jesus. Notice how he “stood by himself” in his prayers. He was praying, but he wasn’t connected.

I need to hear that. We all need to hear that. Because hearing that is precisely what drives us to the honest, humble, personal, and direct plea for mercy of the prayers of the tax collector. He too stood by himself but he was different. He stood “far off.” And that is precisely where Jesus found him.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, break our hearts of stone. Open our wax-filled ears. Heal our blindness. Help us drop our merit badges and signs of success and call us on the temptation to measure ourselves over against others. Bring us, just as we are, into your presence and heal our broken souls. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


One Response to “Luke 18:9-14”

  1. Carolee Says:

    Your message on sincerity in prayer reminds me of the hymn,
    “Just as I Am Without One Plea”.

    Just as I am, without one plea,
    but that thy blood was shed for me,
    and that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    Just as I am, and waiting not
    to rid my soul of one dark blot,
    to thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    Just as I am, though tossed about
    with many a conflict, many a doubt;
    fightings and fears within, without,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

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