The Pharisee . . . prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11)
Expanded Passage: Luke 18:9–12
One afternoon when I was a teenager, my brother Steven found himself locked outside. He began to urgently bang on the door, and in my effort to teach him a lesson in patience, I stood at the door with my arms crossed. This decision backfired, as I watched him put his fist through the glass window. I had felt justified in my haughty teenage actions, but, 124 stitches later, I realized how wrong I was.
Have you ever found yourself justifying your prideful behavior? I don’t know about you, but often I find myself standing in the Pharisee Zone, comparing my “sinless” actions to the sinful activities of others. Once we reach a self-defined level of purity, it can be difficult to recognize the need to have mercy toward others. Due to his standing in society, the Pharisee in today’s reading had a false sense of himself. But even though he felt justified in the moment, his failure to acknowledge his need for forgiveness led to his not being forgiven by God.
When I find myself creating my own sense of self-righteousness, I recognize how far away I’ve moved from my Savior and my community, and how close I’ve gotten to perfectionism as my religion. Nothing takes us further from God and those around us than when we spiritually bypass our sin and justify our actions.
Step out of the “Pharisee Zone” to see your need for forgiveness.
Holly Atkinson is a pastor’s wife, mother of two girls, and a graduate of OKWU and Wesley Seminary. She currently serves as an assistant principal at a private school in Florida.
© 2023 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.