“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, 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.
In Travis Tritt’s song, Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man, he sings, “Why’s the rich man busy dancing while the poor man pays the band. Oh they’re billing me for killing me. Lord have mercy on the working man.” Tritt’s asking for God to help the working man paying more than his share of taxes. Taxes hurt the working man but not so much the rich man.
In Jesus’ time, tax collectors were notorious for collecting more taxes than the Roman government required and pocketing the rest. Jews regarded Jewish tax collectors as traitors and thieves. Therefore, feeling unworthy, the tax collector stood a distance from the Pharisee, smacked his heart in shame, and hung his head. He asked God for mercy, not just help as Tritt’s song implies, but freedom from the punishment he deserved.
Jesus makes us aware we cannot be without sin on our own. If we think we don’t need God for righteousness, we’ll regard others with disrespect. When we realize we’re dependent on God for righteousness, we humble ourselves.
Dearest Heavenly Father, forgive my wrongdoings. Have mercy on me and give me Your grace of righteousness. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep my heart and mind safe in Christ Jesus. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.