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Confessions Of An IRS Agent

He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.
–Luke 18:9

A friend of mine used to tell the story of a snake that went to the optometrist and got some contact lenses. About three weeks later, the snake went back to the optometrist. The optometrist said, “How are you doing?”

The snake replied, “Well, I can see perfectly, but I am all depressed.”

“Why are you depressed?” the optometrist asked. The snake said, “Because I discovered that for the last three years, I have been living with a water hose.”

Clear vision can be painful sometimes, especially when it comes to seeing ourselves as God sees us. Yet seeing ourselves clearly is the first step to receiving God’s gift of forgiveness. That is the point of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. Verse 9 says, “He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.” This parable was directed toward the Pharisees, who were trusting in themselves. That was the foundation of their faith: themselves. They were trusting in their inherent goodness rather than in God’s unconditional grace to be saved.

Not only that, but Luke said the Pharisees also viewed others with contempt. After all, what is the use of thinking highly of yourself if you cannot think lowly of other people? In their book “Psychology through the Eyes of Faith,” Christian psychologists David Myers and Malcolm Jeeves said the problem with many people is not that they think too lowly of themselves but that they think too highly of themselves. They wrote, “The most common error in people’s self-images is not unrealistically low self-esteem, but rather self-serving pride; not an inferiority complex, but a superiority complex.” That was the Pharisees. They thought highly of themselves and viewed other people with contempt.

Some people will look for anything to be proud about–even their humility. When we look at this parable, we need to be careful that we are not like the fourth grade Sunday school teacher who, after teaching this parable to her class, said, “Now, boys and girls, let’s bow our heads and thank God that we are not like the Pharisees.” We do not want to be proud of our humility.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Other Story About The Two Sons” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.

David G. Myers and Malcolm A. Jeeves, “Psychology through the Eyes of Faith” (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003), 163.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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