March 21, Saturday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on October 15, 2013. 

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Lord, Have Mercy on Me.”

Luke 18:13-14

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted

We live in a highly competitive culture (although it remains to be seen how the current pandemic—having sobering effects on everyone globally—may alter that, however slightly).  

For instance, we judge a winner of a hundred-meter race in terms of fractions of a second.  At the finals of 2012 Summer Olympic hundred-meter race, the difference between the first-place winner and the runner that came seventh was 0.35 seconds. This small difference made one person famous, while nobody even remembers the person who came in seventh.

The Pharisee, in this passage, becomes competitive with righteousness saying, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector.” He judges his own righteousness by his own human standards; but this is ridiculous when compared to God’s standard of righteousness.

Let’s think about the difference between God’s righteousness and our own righteousness. If God’s righteousness were to go up to the very top of the Empire State Building, our righteousness is on the ground floor. From heaven’s standard, comparing our righteousness with another person is like comparing our height with someone at the bottom of the Empire State Building; those few inches (which we think are so significant) are so meaningless in comparison to the great height of the building. 

Interestingly, the tax collector did not compare himself to someone lower than himself; instead, he saw himself in the light of God—from God’s standard. Therefore, the tax collector understood how much he was in need of the grace of God: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The good news is that the tax collector went home justified before God.  God remembers the seventh-place runner.

As we suddenly find ourselves in a dramatic shift in how we live, work and even worship, let’s humble ourselves before God by realizing and then never forgetting how insignificant our righteousness or achievement is.  With that and 50 cents, you can maybe buy a cup of coffee. Instead, let’s all cry out to the Lord, saying, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love” (Ps. 51:1).

Prayer: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.”  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 53-54