To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:
“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
I had some of my carpet cleaned today. Due to an incident that involved candle wax and my floor, I had some professionals attempt to get what I thought was a sooty wax stain out of my rug. Sadly, the carpet fibers turned out to be scorched and the rug, while much cleaner, looks the same as it did before.
While the cleaning man was printing out a receipt for the work they had done (I know we live in an age of technology, but those receipt-printing clipboards still amaze me), he made a comment about how my husband must have been sad to have to work today. Unfortunately, this is one of those awkward moments for me, when I have to tell someone who didn’t really ask the awful truth.
He, of course, apologized, but it was easy to see how he had come to the conclusion. There are beautiful pictures of my son, my son and me, and my husband and me all around our house. You would need to be paying very close attention to notice that there isn’t a photo anywhere of all three of us.
Appearances can often be deceiving.
In the case of the pictures around my house, I do this intentionally to make sure my son grows up in a home where he knows that he is very much loved and has a family. I never want him to think for a second that his family isn’t whole, even if his dad is in heaven.
However, sometimes appearances are deceptive for the wrong reasons. People, like the Pharisee in this parable, like to put on a good show that they have everything together and that their lives are perfect. But that’s all it is – a good show. Their pride has caused them to be judgmental and hypocritical, and acts as a barrier that keeps them from Christ.
The tax collector, on the other hand, holds no illusions about himself. He knows he has done terrible things. His honesty is what humbles him, and because of that, Christ justifies him.
Next time you see someone who seems to have it all together, remember this parable. There are things we all struggle with, and hurts we all deal with. But what we are each responsible for is our own dealings with Christ – and there is no fooling him. Honestly is the only way to approach the throne of heaven.