Pharisee and tax collector. Religious and sinner. Proud and broken. Two prayers. Two different results. The tax collector was justified, made right because he depended on God's mercy. The source of his prayer was (Psalm 51:1): "Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant love. Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins!" He knew that he couldn't hope in his accomplishments or his own goodness. He was totally dependent on God's mercy and benevolence.
The Pharisee, however, was not justified. He exalted himself and believed that he would gain God's approval through his accomplishments. In his mind, the Pharisee did not think he needed God's mercy and grace; he believed that he was perfect (through observing the Law). He was unable to see his need for salvation.
I have often criticized the Pharisee for his pride, for depending on his actions, and for despising the tax collector. I thanked God that I was not like him. But then I realized that I'm more like the Pharisee than the tax collector, and I remember that in God's sight, it was the tax collector who went home justified.
How much do we resemble this Pharisee today? We say we are committed believers, we go to church and share with others about Jesus, and we avoid many sins and feel righteous. Too often we depend on these things and lift them to the Lord. But what really brings us tranquility and inner peace as we lay our head on the pillow at night? What do we depend on? Is the source of our tranquility our spiritual accomplishments? Or does our peace come from our total dependence on Christ's righteousness in us?
The Bible says God has put us in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30), and that is where he sees us; this is our hope! "Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1-2) Let us cry out like the tax collector, "have mercy on me, a sinner!"
Our tranquility and inner peace can only be based on the fact that Christ died for our sins and gave us his righteousness. This is the rock of salvation on which we rely.
- 29 NOVEMBER -