Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled ...
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In opening this passage Jesus tells us that a self-righteous person is one "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt". The contrast that he paints in this parable is so compelling. The self-righteous Pharisee brags about what he does not do then boasts about the little that he does do. He speaks as though he does not need God at all. Yet the tax collector seems to only confess that he is weak and in need of God.
When I think about humility I rarely think about this tax collector. In truth I want humility to be a bit more sophisticated and religious than a man who "would not even lift up his eyes to heaven". Somehow I think that the humility I long for resembles the attitude of the Pharisee and not the tax collector. Perhaps humility begins, and maybe ends, with a cry for heavenly mercy? Perhaps it is all about how we talk to God in prayer? A new thought for me.
I am weak and in need of you. God, be merciful to me, a sinner!