“The Pharisee stood apart by himself and prayed, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not greedy, dishonest, or an adulterer, like everybody else. I thank you that I am not like that tax collector over there. I fast two days a week, and I give you a tenth of all my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even raise his face to heaven, but beat on his breast and said, ‘God, have pity on me, a sinner!’ I tell you,” said Jesus, “the tax collector, and not the Pharisee, was in the right with God when he went home. For all who make themselves great will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be made great.” Luke 18:11-14 GNT
Some words of “thanks”, may not really be thanks at all. The Pharisee used the words, but in his heart he was anything but truly thankful. We see that he is filled with pride and self righteousness. He is just happy that he is not like that miserable other guy. He is much better than him. But this is not true gratitude. It is pride being given a license to flourish. We might not believe we have any traits of this pharisee, but the truth is, self-righteousness is far more prevalent in our lives than we might like to think. We are a society that mistakes good people for godly people all too often. We forget that our goodness and righteous acts cannot save us. And if our heart has not been converted, these very acts can become a stumbling block preventing us from seeing the truth about who we really are. We don’t want to be associated with the tax collector but we would rarely consider ourselves as a pharisee either.
What seems to be the dominating issue here is that one man has a sense of entitlement. The Pharisee felt entitled to certain things because of what he did. His “good actions” meant that he should get good results. After all, he wasn’t like that other guy who was so vile. He felt entitled to all the good that life had. Surely God would hear his prayers. After all, he was such a good guy.
However, the tax collector did not have a sense of entitlement. He did not feel entitled to anything, but he demonstrated through his humility that he felt honoured. Honoured to get to come to God, honoured that he would be heard, honoured that one so low could be recognized by one so high. He did not come with pride and express false gratitude, but he came with humility and expressed sincere gratitude. The result was his debt was paid. God heard the truly humble and grateful heart.
Can I truly be grateful for something I feel entitled to? Will I not feel more gratitude towards something that I feel honoured to have in my life? Especially when I really don’t deserve it?
Today, I am grateful that I am debt free. The debt I owed was too much for me, but my cry for help was heard. The One so high became so low just for me. I am grateful that my goodness does not qualify me but His sacrifice for me does. If this depended on me, I would remain lost. I am thankful that He loves me enough to challenge the deepest places in me and to call the hidden self righteous attitudes to bow and to humble themselves before Him. I am thankful that He doesn’t give up, but sticks with me even when the pharisee in me rises up. He reminds me, that truth will continue to liberate me, as I allow it to act in my life.