The two men in today’s reading go up to the Temple to pray. The Temple was a place of restoration. When Jesus healed a man with leprosy (see Matthew 8:1-4), he instructed him to show himself to the priest who would validate his new, clean state and restore him to society.
The tax collector in the parable from today’s reading needs restoration. He stands far off in the Temple. Is he afraid of the stares of others because of his complicity with Roman rule? Does he see himself as unworthy? He beats his breast, a sign of penitence. He cries out for mercy.
Luke begins the parable by stating that Jesus told it to those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt.” It is not insignificant that Luke is telling this parable of Jesus to a Christian audience. The message is clear: Do not be like people who do not have empathy for other human beings. Strive for a humble heart. The closing verse sums up the lesson: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
In the end, the Pharisee with no empathy (regarding others with contempt) goes away unjustified. The humble one goes away justified. Yet, it goes against the message of the parable itself for us to say, “I’m glad I’m not like that Pharisee!”
The parable invites us to aspire to humility. Humility shows itself in our attitude, behavior, and spirit. Humble hearts hold out hope that we can be restored to wholeness and find communion with God and neighbor.
O God who hears us and delivers us from evil, to you be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The theme in the readings from the Hebrew scriptures is “abundance.” Joel speaks of the time of plenty in the land of Israel. This abundance is not only physical, for it includes a generous outpouring of the Spirit of God. The psalmist sings of abundant rain that allows the land to flourish. The hills, meadows, and valleys all sing praise to God. Second Timothy 4 contains the scriptural passage that brings us closest to the death of Paul. The apostle has been abandoned by many, but the Lord stands by him as he faces his likely imminent death. In the Gospel, Jesus warns us about the dangers of pride. The Pharisee in the parable thinks his personal goodness brings favor with God, but God desires a humble heart.
Read Joel 2:23-32. How has rain been a sign of God’s impending provision in your life?
Read Psalm 65. How has God’s forgiveness freed you to participate in creation’s joy?
Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18. When has God strengthened you in the face of evil?
Read Luke 18:9-14. What aspect of your life do you need to approach with renewed humility?
Respond by posting a prayer.