To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself 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 18:9-12)
I love this parable. Instead of Jesus saying he spoke to Pharisees, He gives the definition of a Pharisee: Those who are confident of their own righteousness and look down on everyone else. In this parable the people they looked down on were robbers, evildoers, adulterers, and tax collectors; not people like you and me, right?
I was impressed when I was in line at Wal-Mart and a lady came back to pay for something hidden in her grocery cart. Would we all have faced the line again? The enemy has convinced me to gossip about someone a time or two even though I try not to gossip. Am I an evildoer? Adultery is too common. Sometimes people, who’ve spent their lives feeling unloved, look for love in the wrong places. I’ve never known a tax collector, but I don’t want one knocking at my door. Maybe the people being looked down upon are more like you and me than we think.
Maybe the Pharisees are also more like us than we think. Don’t we look down on criminals, robbers and evildoers? Don’t we call out people who are lazy and others who don’t wear masks in the COVID crisis? God wants us to show mercy to those whose hearts we don’t understand. The Bible tells us: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)
Father God, help me not look down on others as I don’t want others to look down on me. Let me always have a heart of mercy and show kindness to all. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.