Luke 18:9-14 (NLT)
“13 But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.”
Today the Christian world begins a period of fasting and penitence. Please note that it’s not fasting or penitence but fasting and penitence. The Pharisee in our passage had the fasting (works) aspect of his religious life covered. He was careful to obey both the positive and the negative commands of the Law, and he was proud of his ability to do so. Although he expressed thanks to God for it, we can easily see by his attitude that he felt it was his doing and that he didn’t really need God’s help.
The tax collector, on the other hand, was ashamed to even approach God. He knew he had failed to do the things God expected. Jesus referred to him as a sinner, but still he begged for mercy. I can only imagine the surprise and indignation of those to whom Jesus was speaking when He said that the tax collector “returned home justified before God.”
When a sinner recognizes he is justified before God, he is very likely to begin the good works he has previously ignored, much like the Zacchaeus, the tax collector from Luke 19. And having experienced God’s loving grace, he is most likely to continue to humble himself before God, recognizing and repenting for his current mistakes and failures: Obedience and penitence.
Let’s commit ourselves to both of these disciplines for the next forty days (and beyond). Let’s watch for every opportunity to do some good thing for our Savior, and let’s recognize our many failures with true penitence. Let’s bow before heaven with heartfelt sorrow and pray:
Oh God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.
Dialog discuss, “What do you think about this statement?” We can’t escape being hypocrites (sinners), but we can strive to change. God can change us and he can use our friends to help with it. John Greco, student, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary