"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’”But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
LISTEN TO: Bob Marley, "One Love,"
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 "
As part of our 2019 resolution to become more Christ-like, we continue our walk through Paul's inspired passage on love.
Paul breaks down for us what Love does, just as Jesus models for us in his actions and teachings how love acts and reacts
in the world. Today we reflect on arrogance and how it gets in the way of love.
Arrogance makes claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights over others. The Latin root means "to presume." We presume our accomplishments or qualities makes us better than others. God thinks otherwise!
In the parable that Jesus told in Luke, the Pharisee stood up front and thanked God for not making him like sinners -- robbers, evildoers, an adultery, or even the tax collector. The Pharisee has a disciplined spiritual practice -- he fasts twice a week (how many of us could claim that!) and he tithes -- he give a tenth of his income. Amazing! How many churches would welcome such a giver! But this Pharisee has a fatal flaw. He has to make himself look more important by putting others down. He has to flaunt the good he does, and rub it in. His prayer focuses on himself, not on God. He doesn't pray for others. Instead his attitude is, "God, aren't you lucky to have a disciple like me?"
The tax-collector, on the other hand, kept his distance. He doesn't even lift his eyes to heaven. He beats his breast in a sign of contribution and begs-- "Lord have mercy on me a sinner." The tax collector knew his need for God. For all we know, this tax-collector could have been just as arrogant or successful as the Pharisee up until this prayer. However something convicted him. Him wanted to change and be right with God. Jesus states clearly: The Tax-Collector went home justified by God, not the Pharisee. It is this Tax Collector's prayer that forms the basis of the most popular, powerful and ancient of prayer in Christianity, the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner." There are many forms of this prayer, but at it's root it is a cry of the heart for forgiveness, help, and spiritual strength.
The Tax Collector's Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, is an antidote to arrogance. It leads us into the stillness of our heart. The prayer is simple. We can pray it wherever we are. We learn to prayer it in rhythm with our breath -- and in doing so we become less agitated, more focused on God. We become open to grace. It opens us up to self-knowledge. It helps us develop a right relationship with God and with others. It is worth exploring as went enter the Lenten season. Here are some good places to start.
There's nothing wrong with having confidence. But love never takes confidence to lord it over others; or to belittle others. Our spiritual task is to lift others up, not pull them down or make them feel badly.
This Lent, let us ask God's help for spiritual balance in our lives. Let us pray the Tax Collector's prayer daily. Learn more about the Jesus prayer and make it a part of our spiritual routine. By doing so, we keep our hearts from being contaminated by the bad habits that would block love from blooming in our heart.
PRAY: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner."