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.”
The Pharisee is doing everything right. He is fasting. He is tithing. He is living right, but his heart is arrogant. We see how treacherous the trap of arrogance. After all, he is doing all of the right things. He even gives thanks to God, seemingly to give God the credit and the glory. Yet there is that one little phrase that he uses in his prayer. He says, “I thank you that I am not like other men.” The trip line so well hidden has become exposed. “I am not like other men.” I can’t hardly get it out of my head. Intellectually, there are those who do better than others. Physically, there are some who run faster and jump higher. But in the spiritual realm, there is none better than others. We are all completely bankrupt.
The Lord shines His light into the darkness. We are all born into darkness. We struggle to see the light of God. We strain to see the love and mercy of God. Without the Lord giving us power to see the light and the power to step toward the light, we would not be able to do anything good. The apostle Paul said this:
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
Though we are all equal in spiritual bankruptcy, we are not equal in opportunity. The Lord, in an attempt to motivate us to follow Him allows our sin to drastically effect our children. He hopes that, though we may not love ourself enough to get right with Him, we may love our children enough to get right with Him. This principle multiplied out generation after generation effects clans, communities, cities, and even nations. There are some of us who have been born in a Christian nation where the Gospel of Christ is a shared belief with most people in our family, city, and nation. The light was easier for us to find than those who may have been born in a predominantly Muslim or communist country where Christianity was illegal. Some of us have been born into families filled with the love of God while others were born into abusive, hate-filled homes. The power of God to find the light is available to everyone, but the righteousness and evil surrounding us determines the shade of darkness we born into and live in. Those who were born and have lived closer to the light cannot claim any glory. They had no effect of what they were born into nor the people they were surrounded by. In the same way, those who have been born and live in greater darkness should not be more condemned than others. They, also, had no control over the circumstances they were born into.
The Lord holds us accountable for moving toward the light, taking hold of the light, and living in the light. He does not hold us accountable for where we start the journey. No matter where we start on the journey, we can take no glory, not do we have a right to condemn. On the contrary, knowledge of the grace and mercy shown to those born closer to the light should have compassion and mercy for those born in greater darkness. There is hope for everyone. Everyone needs to be rescued. Take no glory for the light you have found, but take the light you have found and turn it back into the darkness for there are others in deeper darkness that need to be found.
Lee Young is the author of The Journey: Understanding God’s Plan for Your Life. He also serves as the Lead Pastor of CrossRoads Community Church in San Antonio, Texas.