Within the cultural realm of Jesus, Pharisees would be seen as righteous because they were the ones who knew scripture. They interpreted it and followed it. Their interpretation brought about expectation. If they followed it, they expected others of their faith to do as they did. Woe to the one who fell short of their ideals.
|As you can see by the picture,|
Tax Collectors are still not
a popular lot. Imagine if
they were collecting them for a
foreign occupying government!
So when Jesus lifts up the tax collector as justified in the parable even over the Pharisee, this would have been a reversal over the common thinking. What lifts him above is not his devotion to scripture. It would not be his occupation or how he lives his life. What elevates him in the eyes of Jesus is his humility.
Real humility is a source of strength. One who is insecure has difficulty giving credit where credit is due. One who is humble can see and identify the gifts present in others. This is how God sees us. God continually uses flawed people in scripture to accomplish great things. God uses them in spite of the flaws.
Each of us has our problem areas. We each have our strengths. Being self-aware of both allows us to thrive because we rely on what we do well and look for help to compliment those places that are not as polished.
I know that I need to practice my own sense of humility more often - especially when my insecurities rear their ugly heads. But when I do place myself on an equal playing field, I am acknowledging God at work in the world through all kinds of people. And when we can see this, we may be closer to the Kingdom of God.
Photo by Stephen Melkisethian via Flickr.com, used under the Creative Commons license.