And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’
“I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
– Luke 18:9-14 NASB
Having made clear that He came not to call the righteous but rather sinners to repentance, Jesus here tells a parable to reinforce the point. We should come to prayer not as superior to others but rather as inferior to God – as disobedient children needing forgiveness and restoration from a righteous father. That is, we should come to God seeking mercy, not justice. No human being in his right mind goes to a holy God asking for what he deserves.
Viewing other people with contempt is an attitude to be avoided at all costs. It is a manifestation of pride. We should, instead, seek humility. We should consider others more important than ourselves.
Let’s take an example. Let’s say I have a neighbor who supports abortion. I can view his opinion on abortion with contempt without viewing him with contempt. I can pray for him. I can ask God to forgive my neighbor for his pro-abortion stance…and even to deliver him from his pro-abortion stance. I’m supposed to love my enemies as well as my friends; therefore, I pray for my neighbor as someone I love, someone I want to serve. If I know abortion is wrong and my neighbor doesn’t, it only means God is expecting more from me today than from him.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Heavenly Father, show me how to hold others in the highest regard without capitulating to their wrong, and sometimes thoroughly evil, ideas. Show me how to see my own sins more quickly than I see the sins of others. The mercy you show me, I will show others…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.