Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.
The two men in Jesus’s parable in Luke 18 approached God in two very different ways. The Pharisee came to God on the basis of his own inherent goodness. The tax collector came on the basis of God’s grace.
Now, had Jesus stopped the story right here and said, “Which one left forgiven?” the Pharisee would have won, hands down. His audience would have said, “The Pharisee does all these good things, while the tax collector thinks one little prayer is going to get rid of whatever horrible things he has done? That is ridiculous!” Jesus dumbfounded them in verse 14 by turning their expectations upside down. He said, “This man [the tax collector] went to his house justified rather than the other.” I think when the Pharisee left the temple, he felt pretty good about himself. “Nothing like some quality time spent with the Lord,” he probably said. And I imagine the tax collector felt as badly about himself after he left the temple as when he went into the temple. But in the final analysis, it does not matter what we think about our relationship with God; it is what God thinks about His relationship with us that matters. The Bible says it was the tax collector who went home justified.
That word “justified” is a legal term that means “not guilty.” When the tax collector expressed sorrow for his sin and requested a covering for his sin, in the great courtroom of heaven, God hammered down the gavel and said, “Not guilty.” It is the same with us. The only way in God’s eyes we will ever be forgiven is by requesting the blood of His Son to atone for our sins.
Then Jesus added this well-known phrase in verse 14: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The person who, like the Pharisee, engages in self-congratulations before God and trusts in his own relative goodness for salvation will one day be humbled when he realizes that no matter how good he was, it was not good enough to enter heaven. On the other hand, the person who humbles himself in this life, who says, “God, I am sorry for my sin, and I request the grace of Jesus to cover over my sin,” will one day be exalted.
Until you are willing to accept God’s evaluation of yourself and your sinfulness, you will never be ready to accept God’s gift of forgiveness.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Other Story About The Two Sons” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
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. www.lockman.org