This is one of my all-time favorite Scripture passages because it takes us all down a peg. While our culture might claim that humility is important, it doesn’t encourage this virtue in any meaningful way. The tendency to think of ourselves as better than others and be glad we are not “them” runs rampant, even if we never say it outright to God like the Pharisee does. And furthermore, here’s the thing about humility…
it probably isn’t going to come naturally to us. It’s a muscle that we have to intentionally exercise. At first it’s going to feel strange, maybe even like we’re faking it. But the only way a muscle gets stronger is if we keep using it. We all fall short of perfection, and we all know it. Learning to confess this truth and focus on our own relationship with God rather than judging someone else’s requires daily practice, like brushing our teeth.
We also need to pay attention to all those times when, without our even realizing it, our behavior resembles this Pharisee’s. When do we highlight our good deeds and hide our vulnerabilities without meaning to? Jesus seems to say that it’s more important to God that we be honest about our weaknesses than boastful about our perceived successes. You may fast twice a week and give a tenth of all you get, but without the right intentions, the gestures will be empty.
When you play the role of Pharisee, who are the “evildoers” that you consider yourself better than? By what standard is anyone above anyone else in the eyes of God? How can you practice using your humility muscle so that humility becomes a habit?
Lord, help us to be humble. Teach us to not look at others to judge how we are doing, but rather to look inward to evaluate our relationship with you. Amen.