Which Sin is Worst?
Luke 18:11-13 The Pharisee prayed… “God, I thank you that I am not like other men… like this tax collector.”… But the tax collector beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
I love the tax collector’s prayer. It was the honest prayer of a humble man who knew exactly what he was. Despised by all, the tax collector cried out to God. God, be merciful to me, a sinner! It was the desperate prayer of a desperate man who in his wretched state turned to the only one who could save him.
I have prayed that prayer. I have been there, at the bottom, with nowhere to turn except to God. When I got to that place, I realized that I should have been there all along. Had I remained on my knees before God, I would have not pursued self to such destruction. I told myself that I would stay there, on my knees, every day. Even at that point, I could imagine that someday, my situation would improve and I would be tempted to stand, assuming the posture of the Pharisee.
The Pharisee’s prayer is the antithesis of the tax collector’s. The Pharisee, we are told, did not kneel. He stood tall before God and man, exalting himself. Thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. He considered himself better than and he was not afraid to let everyone know it.
When I read this story in treatment, I vowed never to be the Pharisee again. I had played the part before, but at the bottom, as the tax collector, I saw the error of my ways and promised I would remain humble all my days.
My pride apparently had other plans. A few years later, I find arrogant thoughts creeping in. I am pretty sure pride is my only super power. My ego seems to be invincible. Though it was beaten to a pulp just a short time ago, it has risen again to look down on those I consider myself to be better than.
Thus, I again assume the posture of the Pharisee. Jesus warned what a dangerous place this is to be. He said the tax collector, in the end, was the one who went home in right relation to God. The Pharisee, who found himself superior, was the one who chose self, destruction and opposition to God. He went home alone, without God.
Pride then, is the most destructive sin in this story, as it turns one away from God towards self. Those guilty of adultery and theft may, in their destruction, turn to God and be forgiven. The one afflicted by pride however, cannot turn to God, as he or she cannot see the need. I am fantastic! I don’t need God like these poor souls.
It is not that pride is unforgivable. It is that pride does not see its own need for forgiveness. Pride blinds and thus, hides itself from the one afflicted by it. The surest sign of being horribly afflicted by pride is thinking myself to be free from it. Thank God I’m not proud…
God, be merciful to me, a sinner! Daily, I must choose to kneel before God with this prayer on my lips.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.