Day 4: The pharisee and the tax collector
Make your sin a reason to come to God, not to avoid God.
Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
“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.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God."
What if you’re not aware of any nasty sins in your life? Does that mean you’re a Pharisee? Not necessarily. When you come to Jesus with your sins and let him love and forgive you (“justify you”) you leave empowered NOT to sin. Your live a holy life. But here’s the big difference:
Grace-inspired holiness will fill your heart with gratitude. Your life may be very pure but your heart will not be proud. You will have a deep awareness that holiness is a gift.
Works-inspired holiness will fill your heart with pride. Like the Pharisee you will "thank God you are not like other people” and feel superior to them.
An old hymn says this beautifully.
Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.
In other words, even the desire to come to God is a gift! If you’d like to listen to a great version of this old hymn that perfectly fits with today’s lesson, check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGvCm9I4H0A