“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.” Luke 18:11-14
There is a stark contrast between these two men. One is focused on those around him, gauging righteousness based on the actions of others and praising himself for coming out above them. The other simply focuses on the Lord. He sees his unworthiness, mourns his sin, and cries out for mercy.
May we each live our lives with the humility of this tax collector. Not focused on comparisons and the apparent successes and failures of those around us, but rather fixing our eyes on Christ and determining to maintain a constant surrender to His will and His work in our lives.
Gauging ourselves based on other people is never a good measure anyway. Because we all fail. None of us stand on our own righteousness. The only good in any of us is Jesus. If we focus on others’ failures, we become blind and our hearts hardened to the areas in which we are weak. If we focus on others’ successes, we can become so discouraged in our own walk that we stop trying and we doubt that we could ever improve.
But if we cease all comparison and set our eyes on our Lord, we will find encouragement, conviction, grace, and strength as we need them. When our eyes are clear of everything else, we are better able to see Him. And it is in beholding His glory that we are transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18). Not for our own praise. Not so we can feel good about ourselves. But for the glory of His name. Because all of it is Him. All of it is His power, His righteousness, His glorious, transforming grace.
We have no reason to feel prideful about ourselves. We have every reason to feel overwhelmed by His magnificent grace and abundant mercy shown to us. We don’t deserve any of it. So let us cry out for His mercies which are new each morning and for the strength that is needed for the day. We have a constant, desperate need for our Savior. Let us never lose sight of that. Let us humble ourselves before our holy God and rejoice in His faithfulness to us who are so unworthy.
“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:1-2). Our God is with the humble. We don’t need to despair as we see our unworthiness, but rather rejoice and find our hope in Christ. He is great in might and He is not done with us yet. His power is showcased in vessels of clay so that it will be clear that all glory is His.
May our eyes be ever toward our Lord. Not focused outward in comparison. Not focused inward in debasement. But focused upward at the unsearchable greatness and magnificent glory of the God who is at work within us.