Scripture Reading: Luke 18:9-14
But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’ –Luke 18:13-13
The moment we see ourselves for who or what we uniquely are is life changing. It is also necessary for normal maturation as we transition from child to adult. It is equally necessary for spiritual growth. The tax-collector in our scripture today has apparently experienced one of those Aha! Moments, where he understands how what he does, impacts others. I can image him overhearing the gospel Jesus taught. He took it home with him, and he could not let it go. Perhaps he was one of the curious 5,000 Jesus fed. Maybe he witnessed a healing. Whatever happened, he had turned around suddenly facing a full-length mirror, and not liked what he saw.
The tax-collector was most likely Jewish. The Romans like to hire Jews to collect their taxes from other Jews. These tax-collectors returned to the Romans the collections demanded, but the tax-collectors could take as much as they wanted above the Roman tax from their fellow Jews. As you might assume, they were not popular. They were often wealthy, living the good life, measuring their success by their cunning ability to get as much as they could for their own use. I wonder how much faith training he had received and applied as a Jew. Did the tax collector claim purity in the law, justifying his actions by narrow translations? Jesus quoted Hebrew scripture when he commanded us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. How could one rectify overtaxing families and follow that command?
Jesus picked an easy target for his example. He did not have to do a lot of explaining for his listeners to get the picture. He surely sent them home with the same nagging question the tax-collector had that eventually drove him to his knees. We each must search our hearts to find what is holding us back from fully engaging in our roles of service to Jesus Christ. He is rather like a mirror for all of us. Do we see ourselves when we look deep into his life and way of being?
Prayer: God be merciful to me, a sinner! Reflect back to me the things in my life that are limiting me from being what I am called to be. Lead me forward in your grace. Amen.
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.