24 October 2010

Luke 18:9-14

"But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'" (v.13)


Luke's Gospel was probably written around 30 years after Jesus died, and is traditionally associated with a doctor named Luke. He seems to be interpreting the stories about Jesus in a way that non Jews would understand. He was keen to include detail and dates so that those who read his book would believe that Jesus was God. Luke wanted everyone to share his faith.

In this passage, we hear one of the parables of Jesus. We are told that it was aimed at those "trusted in themselves that they were righteous" (verse 9). It is easy to imagine Jesus listening to these people bragging about how perfect they were, seeing how this affected those who were less sure of themselves, and telling this story to put them in their place. Imagine how embarrassed they would have felt on hearing this parable.

Reading this parable, I wonder if I am too confident of my own righteousness. It is easy to believe that because I am a Christian, I can do nothing wrong. However, this is not what God tells us. We are still sinners, still in need of grace. It is only when we humble ourselves and recognise this that we can be 'justified before God' (ie put right with God, or have our relationship restored with God). On the other hand, God does not ask us to lose confidence in God's righteousness. God loves us unconditionally and without restraint, so we have nothing to hide from the Creator. We are created in God's image, and it is when we expose ourselves to God's judgement that we are healed.

To Ponder

How confident are you in your own righteousness? Do you feel embarrassed when you read this parable?

Do you recognise yourself in the tax collector? Are you able to see your own failings?

Can you feel God's love in your life? Allow yourself to be healed by that unconditional love.

Bible notes author

Mia Briggs

Mia Briggs used to be a local preacher. She is now a member of the student clergy in the Metropolitcan Community Church.