There is one thing that the Lord detests the most in the life of a Christian. It is pride. When we hold ourselves in high esteem and look down on others, God not be happy with us. When we make ourselves important and make others look like nothing, we turn the face of God away from us. What the Lord wants is humility in everything we do.
In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus gives us a parable on the right Christian attitude. It is a parable or a story that is meant to teach us a moral lesson. In this story, a Pharisee and a tax collector went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prays first; he praises himself in the name of prayer and pours contempt on the tax collector because in his eyes, the tax collector is a sinner and therefore, is not fit to live. So, rather than pray the way he was supposed to pray, he did two things that are not a part of Christian prayer. He praised himself and passed judgment on his fellow human being. When it was the tax collector’s turn to pray, he presented himself humbly to God asking for mercy and forgiveness. He did not deny the fact that he was a sinner, and he did not pretend to be good when he was not. This act of humility and sincerity brought him Justification and salvation according to Jesus. In Luke 18:14 Jesus says, he went home justified while the Pharisee did not.
What Jesus wants us to look at in this passage is not about who we ware, whether righteous or sinful, but the attitude we have. Truly, the Pharisees were very devoted people in their religious life. They used to fast every Monday and Thursday for the good of the nation and paid tithes as Jesus says in Matthew 23:23. It is also true that the tax collectors were very corrupt people because in collecting taxes, they duped people and enriched themselves unjustly. The problem is that the Pharisee was proud in his righteousness; he held himself higher than he really was and despised the sinful tax collector. He had neither love nor compassion for the Publican because of his sins and would have preferred to see him dead. Jesus tells us that this sort of attitude is wrong for anybody who calls himself a child of God. Even though the Pharisee tried his best to live according to the law of his religion, he needed to be kind to the other person even if he was a terrible sinner. On the other hand, the tax collector was forthright and humble; he said the right prayer acknowledging his sinfulness and praying for forgiveness.
Let us look at this story from the point of view of our situation today. How do we Christians look at people we know who are lost in their ways? The tendency is to giggle and feel happy that we are Church people, Christians who attend mass or religious service every Sunday and are involved in the ministries of the Church. We feel proud that we are good and not messed up like others. Some of us do not even give the opportunity to repent because we do not think they can repent. Or maybe I should say, we would not want them to repent. We send them to hell by our attitudes while they are still alive; we judge and condemn them because of their sinful life. Jesus is calling those who behave this way to change their attitude and be more compassionate and considerate. We are to thank God for the grace of a holy and faithful life and pray for our lost brothers and sisters in their situations. In Romans 15:1-3, St Paul tells us that we who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Our Christian duty is to look for our neighbor’s good and not our own just as Jesus did. For those of us who are like the tax collector, who live in sin, Jesus wants us to humbly acknowledge our sinfulness and ask God for forgiveness. We cannot afford to live in sin and be proud of it because the Christian call is a call to holiness. What Jesus says in Matthew 18:14 is that if we are humble in our Christian life, we shall be justified and exalted.
The fact is that God prefers the humble and cast away the proud. Proverb s 16:18 says that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” St Augustine says that “Pride changed angels into devils while humility makes men into angels.” Let us therefore develop a positive attitude toward others especially those who are struggling in sin. Let me say this: If we cannot do any other thing for our brothers and sisters who are lost in sin, we can be praying for them. If we cannot approach them and speak to them about changing their ways, we can lift them up to God and pray for their deliverance and conversion. But first we have to be sincere in our Christian life. As Jesus says in Luke 6:39, “A blind man cannot lead a blind man.” It is only when we step up in our ‘spiritual game’ that we will be able to bring others up in the faith. When we do these things, our merciful Father will look down with favor and bring us to salvation.