Living with an 8-year-old boy is a funny experience. Regularly I am walking through the house and out of no where I am lept upon by the dude as if he is a lion hunting his prey. Daily Mason stands in front of me with a glimmer in his eye, in football ready position, and says, “hey Dad, want to wrestle.” My stories of taking Judo has resulted in Mason constantly asking me if he can flip me?! The other day I heard, “wow, there is a real muscle in there?!” I came around the corner to see him with his shirt off flexing in the mirror marveling at the little apple that was popping up in his bi-cep.
We have all seen gorillas, and 8-year-old boys, beat their chests in powerful pride in order to imtimidate their opponent. Beating your chest can mean “you’re mine.” Beating your chest can be one of the most powerful symbols of pride, but it can also demonstrate humble brokenness.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus:‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. ’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner! ’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
Pride versus humility are in full display in Jesus’ parable. By all earthly and human measurements the Pharisee was the more righteous. He studied and knew the Scriptures. He was a decent and just man, not cheating people like the tax collectors. He was faithful to fulfill his religious obligations and gave his tithes. If I was his father there is a lot for me to proud of…somebody raised this guy right!
But, pride is the object of Jesus’ wrath in this parable. Morality is good, but moral superiority condemns. Decency is desired, but judgmentalism brings God’s wrath. Faithfulness to the law is right, but self-righteousness will lead to a sermon illustration about you!
Jesus doesn’t desire the moral kid if he takes pride in his own morality. Jesus doesn’t want the nice kid if the kid boasts in his politeness. Jesus wants a humble broken sinner in need of his mercy.
Are you the corrupt tax collector in this parable? If so, beat your chest in humble brokenness, then let Jesus save you. Are you the self-righteous religious guy in this parable? If so, beat your chest in humble brokenness, then let Jesus save you.