The story of the Pharisee and the tax collector going up to the temple to pray is a timeless message to us all. The former - confident of a legal righteousness that he felt he had achieved - was comforted in his self justification before God particularly when he compared himself to the tax collector. The latter made no such comparison other than placing his moral failure alongside the utter holiness of God. He knew he had no righteousness of his own but with a broken and contrite heart prayed that the propitiating sacrifices given by God in the temple might blot out his sins.
Jesus made it clear that the one who lifts himself above others and feels no need for God's atoning forgiveness will soon be brought down. The one who is broken and humbled by their sin and yet looks to God for his pardon is lifted up and freely justified. Any basis of self justification that we may feel elevates us over others will always fail us and bring us down but the Lord revives and lifts up the humble and lovingly justifies those who look to His rich mercy.
John DUNKLEY BTh, Dip.Min. and Dip. Pastoral Studies. He is an ordained Baptist minister and has pastored a number of Baptist churches. He has also ministered at Westcare Baptist Mission - an inner city ministry and served as a voluntary Police Chaplain.