A common occurrence in the Gospels is for Jesus to tell a parable that the disciples don’t understand. Afterward we find them asking what does this parable mean? But in Ch. 18 Luke reverses this pattern. He relates two of the parables of Jesus and, before he gives them, he tells us what the meaning and purpose of the parables are. Notice this is v. 1 and v. 9. I want to focus on the second for a moment.
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” (18:9) It seems rather obvious that he is addressing the Pharisees. And quickly we can discern what the essence of Pharisaical thinking was: spiritual self-confidence and arrogance. The clear statement of intent makes this obvious and the parable follows to pointedly show the wrongness of the Pharisee’s thinking and actions.
I wonder how often today we fall into the trap of Pharisaism? How often do we think of ourselves as having arrived spiritually? I think there’s an easy answer to that question. The first key to whether we are trusting in ourselves that we have arrived spiritually is when we have thoughts that we are more spiritual than someone else. Any time we fall prey to looking down our spiritual noses at anyone else, we are thinking of ourselves as spiritual studs.
Avoid it! Recognize it! Run from it. Let us beat on our breasts and cry out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” For, as is so true, there but for the grace of God go I.”
Prayer: Father, apart from your mercy and grace I am nothing. I deserve hell because I’m a filthy sinner before you. But you, Lord, in your love plucked me from the pit and gave me life with you. To you be all the praise! None of it goes to me. Thank you for your grace that chose me for yourself because, in my sin, I would never have chosen you.