To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Luke 18:9 (NIV)
Jesus teaches us about how we should be. He uses examples. He talks of familiar types of people and situations. He speaks in parables or in stories. But is His objective to reach the ears of certain hearers? Nearly everyone may delight in listening to the stories. But who are they that are touched by the words Jesus uses? Are we the ones to whom they speak? Do we listen with our hearts exposed to find out what kind of an attitude He is looking for in us?
The Son of God tells of two men. One felt justified before God. He was an upstanding person. He did what was considered right. He believed in God. He followed all the things that were considered to be important for him to be taken as a true and pure religious person. He did what his church expected of him. He adjusted his life to his beliefs. He paid what he needed to. He fasted regularly and prayed earnestly. But was Jesus impressed by his attitude?
The second man was not like the first. His values were not as high. He did not live his life in the picture-perfect style like the first man. He probably did not hang out with the most religious types of people. He was wrapped up in a life of chasing after the world´s riches and pleasures. But something brought him to his knees. Something inside of him moved him to seek forgiveness. Was it this believer who found justification in the eyes of the Lord? Is there a lesson here for us too? What difference is there between the attitudes of these two men?
Would we just love to turn all religion into a neat little package of actions or rituals? Would it be so much easier for us if there were merely a good pattern to follow? Is it too much for us to consider that a real connection needs to be made? Is it more effort than we are willing to give, to press forward to the point where there is a real relationship between us and our Lord? Would we like to live out our entire lives focusing upon facts and actions? Would it be easier than actually opening our hearts to Jesus, bowing to Him and needing Him for every part of our lives? Should we actually need to be aware of our need? Should it be vital for us to see Him filling that need for us each day?
There were two men in the story. They both prayed. But in the prayer of the first man, he was the center of attention. The second man knew he was insufficient and needed the Lord. One was happy that he was correct. But for all his religion, he could not have been further from needing God. What kind of attitude do we come before the Lord with? Jesus warns of the wrong kinds of attitudes. What does He tell us in verse 17? Why should we come as small children to our Father? Should we think we will have a part with Him, if we think ourselves clever, correct or better off than any other person? Is Jesus exposing to us our illusion? Is He showing us that we are only fooling ourselves? Do we ever truly stop to consider what attitude we are approaching the Lord with?
Dear Lord, we too would like to come before You today. But please help us consider the Way we come. Open our hearts. Show us what kind of attitude we approach You with. Remove any pride. Let us come as honestly and sincerely as small trusting children. Press upon us a painful awareness of our need for You! Let us know of every way we have separated ourselves from You. Then help us find the right state of heart to strengthen the bond between us! Make our need for You and our love for You define our attitude in coming to You today!