Humility is not an option. Every mouth will eventually be closed; every chest will eventually be beaten; every knee will eventually bow. Humble yourself now or be humbled by God later, but humility is coming nonetheless. Now here’s the thing – we can look at this story and learn many things. We can learn, for example, that the fashion and nature of our prayers goes a great way in being a window to our hearts.
We have, as humans, a remarkable propensity to turn that which is virtuous into that which is personally indicting. The very thing that might well be a mark of our pursuit of Jesus and growth in holiness can, at an astonishing speed, become a source of pride and therefore a hindrance to that spiritual growth:
- We volunteer to serve, and then immediately judge those who didn’t.
- We give some money, and then immediately look to see if someone noticed.
- We exercise self-control, and then immediately look to be rewarded by God for our efforts.
This tendency in my own heart – this tendency to corrupt – makes me think of a story Jesus told. But even more than the story, it makes me think of the way I react to the story. Perhaps you will remember this story the Lord told about two different people doing the same thing but for very different reasons:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’