Luke 18:9-14 (NRSV)
Verse 9He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: Verse 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Verse 11The 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. Verse 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' Verse 13But 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!' Verse 14I 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."
Self-help psychologists are known to encourage people who are depressed to be positive about themselves and who they are. The pharisee in our story certainly did give thanks to God that in his own mind he was such a good and righteous person, but a spirit of repentance and humility would not have crossed his mind.
The tax collector was humbled and trapped in sin, yet Jesus said he went home “justified.” Jesus’ point is that the gift of Justification comes to humans, as for this tax-collector, through simple acceptance of faith. When we trust God, a new life seems to be coming our way. Such trust occurs in a spirit of humility. Here in this story we are invited to see that: “the ones who exalt themselves will be humbled and the ones who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Merciful Lord, teach us to love what is humble inside us as such is sufficient. It is humility that soothes not only our own, but also the troubled souls of others. Let hope abound and keep us thankful. Amen.