But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ Luke 18:13 (NLT)
He was standing away from the crowd, off by himself, fully aware of who he was. When he prayed, he did not even lift his eyes toward the God he prayed to. He beat his chest in mourning and he uttered the same thing we all think from time to time. God, have mercy on me. I'm not worthy of your love.
This man knew he was wrong. He knew he was a sinner. He knew he had nothing to offer that was worth the God he served. But he came anyway. He came because he knew it wasn't about him or what he did but about the God who was bigger than all that.
This man didn't compare himself to others. He didn't check off a list of good deeds. He simply came with his failures and obvious problems. He came for the love and acceptance that is so freely offered to all of us.
I wish I could be more like this man. I tend to mimic the Pharisee more than I would like. How can my heart me more like the heart of this tax collector? By focusing on Jesus. By looking at the one who can change me so my heart is broken when I come before him.
May sound strange, especially if you are a Pharisee, but I would rather be this tax collector.
Father God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Make me more like Jesus. Amen