Numbers 32-34

Mark 9:30-50

“Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” —Luke 11:39

One of the biggest impediments to spiritual growth is a lack of true repentance. This was a huge stumbling block for the Pharisees. They were notorious for imposing outlandish rules on the people, which they tried to keep themselves, but when it came to repentance, it was mostly for show.

In Luke 18, Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee, knowing all the laws of God, stood up and prayed, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get” (Luke 18:11-12). The tax collector stood at a distance. He would not look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

In Jesus’s day, tax collectors were accountable to the Roman government for the money they collected, but were not accountable to the people from whom they collected. Many took a huge margin for themselves and were widely known as thieves. The Jewish people considered them traitors to Judaism for serving the Roman government. In the New Testament, they were given a category of their own—there were sinners and “tax collectors.”

Returning to the parable, which of these two men went home justified? The Pharisee thought well of himself, kept all the rules and actually thanked God that he was better than others. In contrast, the tax collector did not have a checklist to run off before God. He was guilty of sin, and he knew it. He retained a humbled disposition before God, while the Pharisee set himself on a pedestal. Jesus said, 
“I tell you that this man [the tax collector], rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

God has nothing to offer us when we stand before Him reciting a list of all the ways we have been good. Jesus said, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). We can be very giving, caring people and still harbour sin in our hearts. This is where we need to be open and honest. Jesus also said, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed....What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:2-3). There is no justification for hypocrisy in repentance, but God gives graciously to the one who says, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Dear Heavenly Father, You know my heart, and You know everything about me. I echo the words of the tax collector, “Be merciful on me, a sinner.” Thank You, Father.

Older Post Newer Post