Luke 18:9-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be [a]humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In Luke, Jesus tells us a parable about two men. One is a Pharisee, the other a tax collector, both communicating to God in their own way. Both are communicating to God from a place of perception…how they view God and how they view themselves. How we view God, ultimately impacts how we view ourselves, and in turn impacts our relationship with Him.
The Pharisee sees himself as righteous, because he believes what God really wants is performance. He believes what God really wants is for me to be perfect and flawless in deed and action, and the Pharisee is persuaded that he has met God’s standard of righteousness. Ultimately, he is performing because this is a performance for God, and if he falls short he becomes a hypocrite, an actor. Even if hasn’t completely met God’s standard of righteousness, at least he is better than the tax collector he sees from afar.
On the other hand, we have this tax collector who is so convicted by his sin that he can’t even look up to heaven as he prays. He sees himself and he sees God’s standard and he is compelled to ask for mercy. He beats his chest, probably in frustration as he is persuaded of his own unrighteousness.
Because the Pharisee sees himself as righteous already, he never asks God for the thing he needs most! He doesn’t ask because he doesn’t need it, in his mind. That’s a scary thought. I could need something from God, He could be ready to give it to me, and because of how I see things I may never even ask. But because this tax collector saw himself as a sinner needing mercy, he humbles himself and asks God to “be merciful to me a sinner!” He humbles himself and is exalted. He asks for mercy and is justified. How we see God and how we see ourselves and how God sees us is all intertwined in various ways.
God, help me see you correctly, so that I can see me correctly, so that my relationship with you is where you want it to be!
In Christ’s name