“. . . all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:14b CEB
So there were these two guys who had gone to church one morning. The first one was well-known in the community as an upstanding citizen who paid his taxes fully, attended church regularly, and tithed from his healthy income.
The second man was also well-known in the community, but he was known for his dishonestly in bilking people out of more money than his goods were worth. He cheated them and wouldn’t make things right when he was caught. Everyone knew what a jerk he was. He hardly ever attended church, even though he had been brought up to believe that it was important in his life.
One day, they both showed up to pray when no one else was around. The upstanding man stood in front of the altar and began a litany of all the wonderful things he had done in the community and how he KNEW that he was not like other people who were the scum of the earth. He spouted that he was far more righteous than THOSE people, especially the man in the back of the sanctuary who was a known liar and thief.
Way in the back of the sanctuary, the other man fell on his knees, keeping his eyes to the floor, beating his chest and quietly praying for God’s mercy. He recognized his sinfulness, and he asked God to forgive him and have mercy on him.
Hmmm. Arrogance and humility. I suspect most of us would have immediately turned to the first man as a shining example of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ in the world. He was successful, generous to a fault, and at least outwardly set a great example for people to follow.
On the other hand, the man who asked for God’s mercy would not seem to be the best example of a life in Christ since he clearly ignored all Jesus’ teachings about loving others as we love ourselves, and even more than that, loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Yet, the first man had fallen into the trap of arrogance, believing that he was better than the other man (and probably many other people). He didn’t even bow his head or sit down quietly, but expounded on his wonderful qualities rather than thanking God for his blessings and asking God for guidance.
The other man recognized his unworthiness and asked for God to help him. He didn’t try to build himself up, but admitted his faults and error of his ways, giving God the credit for being more powerful than himself.
In Luke 18:14a, Jesus says, “I tell you, this man [the second one] went down to him home justified rather than the other.” When we worship God, it is not WE who are the most important, but God. When Jesus asks us to give our lives to him, we give all of who we are, including our attitudes and assumptions. It is not for us to judge another, but it is our responsibility to care for others and about others in the name of Christ.
How do we pass judgment on others every day?
In what ways are we arrogant, even though it’s hard to admit it?
In what ways do we turn our lives over to God’s guidance and leading?