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The Humble Sinner will be Exalted

The humble sinner will be exalted and those who elevate their own actions as righteous will be brought down. It’s a hard lesson. Harder even to see in our own behavior. Reading the parable may help.

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.’
And Jesus finished, “I tell you that this man (the tax collector), 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.”

1 Timothy 1:15     This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

This is Paul speaking. He says he is chief among sinners. Paul was a master with language. There is no mistake. He could easily have made this past tense. But Paul clearly states that he IS a sinner.

1 John written by John the Apostle is written to the already saved as seen in 1 John 2:12-14, 2:19, 3:1, 5:13. Here we have John clearly pointing out that we still sin. 1 John 1:8   If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Sin was broken when Jesus came into our lives in that before we lived in a prison of sin whereas now we live in a prison of righteousness. Just as we were able to do good, righteous acts when we were sinners, now that we are the righteousness of God through Jesus, we are still tempted by and do sin. But we no longer live in sin.

My difficulty with the original passage, Luke 18:9-14, is I look at the self righteous and say God, thankfully I am not like them. It’s clear from my above rant. I am the younger prodigal son just barely returned, Luke 15:11-32. I am the tax collector without the humbleness. The bad without any of the good. Wonderful.

The Pharisee was actually probably a pretty good guy. He went to temple regularly, was tithing. Do any of us so focus on God each week that we fast? He is probably exactly the person we would put forward at church each week as a model Christian. We imagine this overly legalistic Jew, but he could just have easily been a simple Bible believing Christian. ‘And thank you God I am not like that guy who gets drunk.‘  Supply any of the following or your own to the underlined.

– looks at woman.
– lies.
– jumps around during worship.
– just doesn’t get the Bible.
– looks down on others.
– can’t control his tongue.
– is self righteous.
– is still ruled by the world.

It’s a hard lesson. And one in which I need constant reminding. Is it possible true humility can be found here? Recognizing, I am a sinner. You are a sinner. Both of us are in need of mercy. And both of us are so loved by God, even in our fallen nature, God sent His son to die for us. May we look at each other and remember how much God loves us both.

(Some of the thoughts came out of a sermon by Greg Boyd, 3/8/2009 – Shocking Humility and Extravagant Grace. )

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