I find that when I really hear Scripture, I have a “gotcha” moment. By this I don’t mean that God is seeking to trick us through Scripture, but that Scripture has a way of deflating our egos, correcting our visions, and taking us to places we would not have travelled ourselves. Perhaps it would be better if I illustrated one of the subversive moves of Scripture. Jesus tells this catching parable in Luke 18:9-14:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody 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 up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — 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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
I’m assured by the gospel writer that this parable has nothing to do with my friends or me. This parable was clearly addressed to the self-righteous and those who look down upon other people. This parable is for those evil religious leaders that resisted Jesus’ ministry, right?
I may even reassure myself that I am much more like the tax collector than the Pharisee. I know I’m a sinner so I would never compare myself to others the way this Pharisee does—though, secretly, I know I am better than say, robbers, evildoers and adulterers. Nor would I think of bragging to God about all the pious acts I have done and I would never brag about how often I fast or how much I give. Not me.
So aren’t you glad we are not like that Pharisee? Gotcha!