What I’m Thinking: Starting with Honesty

In Jesus’ story (note: this was a story, not a history), it’s honesty and humility that separate the prayers of two people.

Here’s a transcript:

My first thought is how grateful I am to Church of the Holy Cross and its membership and leadership for recognizing me this past Sunday on the occasion of Pastoral Appreciation Month. I very much appreciate you, Church of the Holy Cross. You are a marvelous, marvelous group of people, and we are doing our very best to bring the love of God into the world. Let’s keep doing it.

And I’m thinking of the eighteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 18:9-14). As with last week’s parable, this one, it seems to me, deserves a sign that says, “This is a Story.”

Jesus told it about a Pharisee and a tax collector who go to pray. The Pharisee prayed out of his pride in his religious faithfulness: his diligence in prayer, his regular payment of the tithe. The tax collector prayed in remorse for his participation, his collaboration, in the Roman occupation. It’s this prayer, Jesus says, that was heard and approved by God.

“Those who humble themselves will be exalted; those who exalt themselves will be humbled.”

I think we need to emphasize once more that This Is A Story, and the whole point of the story is that the Pharisee was somebody who did the right thing. The Pharisee was a righteous, faithful person. The problem was that his prayer was not… was not fully honest. His prayer did not look at the other parts of his life, and also his prayer compared himself with the tax collector. “Thank God I am not like him,” he prayed.

You might argue that the tax collector’s prayer was not fully honest either. It was simply, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Honest, as far as it goes, but no doubt the tax collector had his virtues as well, that he failed in that moment to acknowledge before God.

Humility rises first from honesty, from a deep examination of who we are, what we do, the choices that we make, the things that we decide not to do, the ways in which we relate to those around us, the ways in which we care for ourselves. Honesty is the foundation of humility.

In Jesus’ story, the righteous man simply left his honesty behind. The tax collector more closely approached it. And so he went home with his prayer heard, whereas the Pharisee’s words simply fell into empty air.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: | Posted on October 21, 2019

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