The Level Ground
by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Culture Editor
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – Romans 3:23
I've always felt parables are the best resource anyone has for studying the gospel. The stories Jesus used to teach his followers are timeless and many Christians, including myself, are prone to forgetting their lessons. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is one such lesson,
“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt. Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people, swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week ; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner !' I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." – Luke 18:9-14
Reading this section of scripture, I tried to picture what this story would look like if it was played out on a modern stage. The Pharisee would look the model Christian: He grew up in a Christian home, attended youth group as a teen, participated in a dozen missions trips, as an adult he runs a respectable business, and has a godly wife and three well behaved children. And the tax collector, who would he be? I tried to come up with a fictional description, but instead something else happened. I started seeing the faces of all the Christians who had ever been honest with me about their struggles.
Friends who had struggles with addiction, others who had confessed to adultery, I saw myself confiding in them about my own sins and realized, in that moment, we are all tax collectors. As Romans 3:23 says, we have all fallen short of God’s glory. The moment we start to believe ourselves saved by our own worth is the day we become Pharisees. It’s an old moral, I know, but sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the ones we think we already know.
Intersecting Faith and Life: Who do you most resemble, the Pharisee or the Tax collector?