Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt. – Luke 18:9 (NRSV)
That Jesus told his parable to “some” implies that there were others who didn’t trust in their own righteousness and regard others with contempt. Quite possibly modest, generous people like this still exist today, but if they do, you’d never know it from social or news media.
You can imagine what sort of story Jesus tells. Two guys are praying. One’s real loud and sanctimonious about his own goodness, devastating in his critique of thieves and rogues. Another guy, who you can tell at a glance must be a jerk, ends up pleasing God with his humility and faithfulness.
The issue with the first guy is, of course, the same issue with me and my Facebook posts: they’re focused on the wrong audience. He’s hustling to impress himself, and anyone else who hears his overloud prayers. His prayers sound like they’re addressed to God, but they’re really just paeans to himself spiced with vicious commentary about other people.
The second guy, on the other hand, is actually addressing God. In some ways it doesn’t even matter what he’s praying; what matters is that he’s offering prayers that are sincere, actually addressed to God’s hearing. He doesn’t concern himself with what everybody else is doing, just with what he needs.
Probably the first guy’s loud excoriation of thieves and rogues got a lot of likes from his followers. The second guy, on the other hand, got a mention from the One he follows.
We both know I’m probably never going to manage humility or whatever, God. I’d be willing to settle for a little help getting rid of some of this contempt. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.