October 30: Luke 17-18
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated 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, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up 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 humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
God, Be Merciful to Me!
In our reading today we see two men coming to God in prayer. Who were they, and how were their prayers different? Which prayer was more pleasing to the Lord, and why?
The first prayer recorded is that of the Pharisee.
"God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get."
Oh how proud he was of his demonstrations of Godliness. He did not extort money from men, was not unjust in his dealings with others, and did not commit adultery. In other words, he was the perfect "church-goer." In fact, he was so righteous that he made sure that his prayer was heard by all those gathered around. Oh, did I forget? He fasted twice a week, gave a tithe of his money to the Lord, and was not like this wicked tax collector. How much more righteous could a man be?
Then we have the simple prayer of the tax collector.
"God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"
Standing before God, not even able to lift his eyes to heaven, with all pretension gone, he implored God to save him from his sins. In his heart of hearts he knew that, as a sinner, he was not worthy to be called a child of God, and yet implored God to be merciful to him.
What was Christ's summation of the two prayers?
"I tell you, this man [the tax collector] went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
How do you come before God in prayer? Are you quick to remind Him of all the things you do for the church? Do you come in confidence, knowing that God is really impressed with all of the things you do for Him?
What is your attitude toward other "Christians?" Are you quick to stand before them and remind them of all of the good things you do for the church? Are you terrified that your good reputation before others might be tarnished? Do you group people in two categories, 1-Those who are better than you in riches, knowledge, and/or good deeds; and 2-Those who are beneath you?
Oh how great is our sin of pride! Does God know us? In our heart of hearts does He understand who we really are?
I encourage you this day to fall before God and cry out, "God, Be Merciful to Me!"
We were conceived in sin and would continue our entire lives immersed in sin unless God, in His mercy, through the shed blood of Christ, did not reach down and breathe into us the breath of life. As Christians here on this earth, our greatest battle is within; there exists a constant war between our sin nature and our desire to live for Christ.
Are you a sinner? Praise God that you perceive your true nature, and go to Christ, who alone can rescue you from the clutches of sin.
God, be merciful to me!
God Bless You,
All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.