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."
This passage gets me every time. I am so similar to the Pharisee Jesus describes. I often find myself too concerned with the spiritual resume I'm building in my heart. If I only really grasped my appropriate position before my Almighty and Holy Lord, like the tax collector. He had nothing of his own to claim. He knew he was scum. He was ashamed to enter fully into the temple, as he stood far off, and he knew he was far from worthy to even raise his eyes to heaven. His only words in prayer were a simple plea, claiming God's mercy! The text is clear. Jesus welcomes this plea. In fact, that is exactly what He desires for us. Period.
My prayer for renewal in this comes from an excerpt from Whiter than Snow by Paul Tripp:
"So I am hoping for wise eyes that are able to see through the cloud of self-righteousness and see myself as I actually am. I am praying for wise ears that are able to hear through the background noise of well-used platitudes and hear myself with clarity. And I am longing for a humble spirit that is willing to accept and confess what you reveal as You break through my defenses and show me to me. I am hoping for a broken heart."
Psalm 51:17 "A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
Praise the Lord for His love for prodigal love for sinners!