Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)
Also he spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others… To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus always had compassion for those who admitted their need for him, not condemnation. He did, however, have harsh words for the religious leaders who thought they were good enough because they kept the law, yet never examined their hearts. And none of us are more blind than those who think we see. Jesus said unless we got honest with ourselves, we wouldn’t reach the kingdom. Our hearts are what God is after, but we can become very focused on rule keeping, especially if we’re good at it. How much of our ego is actually invested in that? Jesus invites us to have the courage to take off our masks, to see and admit to the good and the bad within, let go of our self-righteous props and be free. There is nothing we can’t bring into the light of His presence.
It takes courage to look within at our truths. The point, again, is not condemnation but freedom. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Gal. 5:1) He meets us where we are and offers help and healing from our sins and from our fears. Use this Lenten season as a time for spiritual inventory. Sit with God asking for eyes to see any hindrances to stepping into freedom. One of the fruits of the season could be a clearing out of things that hold you back in your relationship to Christ. Our inner spiritual work impacts our ability to love and to live it out in community.
Today’s prayer practice: Prayers of Examen
Spend a few moments reflecting on your day. When were you most aware of God’s presence today? When were you least aware? Where do you need compassion? Where do you need to extend it? What are you grateful for? Have you started that gratitude journal? Joy and peace await.