Be Humble, Not Beaten
Far too long this story has been used to silence ones with no voice. We are taught to be humble at all costs. Never brag. Put yourself down. Always put others first. But I don't think this is what Jesus meant at all. Jesus was concerned with the self-exalting of people already in power, using their power as a means to keep poor people poor, sick people sick, exiled people exiled. The Pharisees' words were outward expressions of inward demons of selfishness, intolerance, and even cruelty. Jesus challenged them to behave better.
I believe behaving better means being better towards others and being better towards one's self. There is no glory in beating yourself up in the name of humility. There is no good that can come from putting others first to the point you have completely lost yourself. You are one of the people Jesus asks you to care for. Be proud when you have accomplished something to be proud of. (Climbing the ladder by stepping on others is not pride-worthy, but rising to the top and bringing others with you certainly is!) Be humble when humility is warranted. Love yourself so you can be someone with the ability to love others.
Narrative Lectionary Text: Luke 18:9-17
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”