This week my story for children is a parable Jesus taught to warn us about the danger of being proud, of thinking too highly of ourselves.
The Pharisee and a Tax Collector
Luke 18:9-14, NIV
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great self-confidence and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector. 11 The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “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.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.”
“I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else,
especially like that tax collector over there!”
Humility is a lesson that we continue to learn throughout life. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).
The proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored is what Jesus conveyed. It’s easy to get in a mood of considering ourselves better than others. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought [wrote Paul to the Romans], but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3, NIV).
To the Philippians he wrote: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV).
To the Galatians he wrote: “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody. Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct” (Galatians 6:2-5, NLT).
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of pride and look down on someone who we consider of less value. That’s what the Pharisee did in the parable Jesus taught. He despised the tax collector. “God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5, NIV).
A humble person recognizes her own limitations and weaknesses and behaves accordingly. Pride and arrogance is sin in the eyes of God. Let’s ask the Lord to help us to be humble and gentle at heart. God needs representatives to follow faithfully in the footsteps of Christ.
We need to teach children that we all have the same value before God. The best method is to teach by example. A child was walking with his father on a dangerous path. “Careful, Dad, where you walk because I’m following your footsteps,” said the child.
If you’re a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, sibling, teacher… you have “followers.” Be careful where you step, because someone is stepping in your footsteps. Really, anybody, and anyplace, is being followed. People are watching us. A humble spirit is the best example we can give.
Pray like the Psalmist:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23,24, NIV