Better Than Anyone Else?
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Better Than Anyone Else?
By Dr. Carol J Miller
Today’s parable (a made-up story) is about two men who go to the temple to pray. Jesus says the first man was a Pharisee. That meant that he knew a lot about the Bible. He taught people about what God wants people to do. When he went into the temple he prayed like this:
“Thank you, God, that I’m better than everyone else.” Wow! Did you ever hear anyone pray that: “Thanks, God, that I’m better than everyone else”. Then he tells God about special things he does––giving money, going without food. Then he tells God that he is better than the other man who is praying. Sounds more like bragging than praying!
Does this Pharisee ask God to help him to be more patient or more kind? [Respect all answers]. Does he ask God to forgive him for anything? Nope. He doesn’t think that he needs anything from God. He thinks that he is good enough. He measured himself against other people and compared to them, he thought he was wonderful.
Now Jesus tells us what the other man prayed. That man was a tax collector. Nobody liked tax collectors. They cheated people. They took more tax money than they were supposed to. Nobody but other tax collectors would talk to them. The tax collector was so ashamed that he would not even look up to pray as most people did. He bowed down and this was his whole prayer: “God, have mercy on me, I know I’ve done bad things.”
That is a lot different from the Pharisees’ prayer! What does the tax collector ask for from God? [Accept all answers]. Yes, he prayed for God to have mercy on him. He knew that he was not good. He knew that because he did not compare himself to others. He looked at himself the way God looked at him. When the tax collector saw how God wanted him to act, he began to think about what he had done instead. He was ashamed, but he also knew that God might forgive him. So the tax collector prayed and he prayed very hard.
Well, whose prayer did God listen to? Jesus tells us: The tax collector was the one God listened to. He asked God to have mercy and God gave him mercy. The tax collector knew he wasn’t better than others, but he knew that God still loved him. God paid no attention to the Pharisee’s prayer. What he had said wasn’t true and he did not ask God for anything.
So let’s look at ourselves the way God does, and not measure ourselves by other people! We are not better than others, but God loves us anyway.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible
Copyright 2014, Richard Niell Donovan