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God Be Merciful
We may expect the religious insider to be blessed, the moral person to be right with God. But as is so often the case, Jesus’ parable for today sweeps away conventional expectations. Jesus surprises the disciples and us when he says it’s not the Pharisee but rather the tax collector, that morally suspect, second-class citizen, who goes home “justified,” right with God (Luke 18:14). Here is a strong reminder for those of us who are church “insiders.” We are sinners who beg for God’s mercy, utterly dependent on God’s forgiveness and love—not merely for ourselves but for all in God’s creation.
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14
The coming reign of God will involve unexpected reversals of fortune with judgment rooted in mercy. Jesus tells a parable in which the one who humbles himself is exalted and the one who exalts his own righteousness is humbled.
9[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”