This is part 3 of the Finding Your Way Back to God series.
Everyone is self-centered from time-to-time. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told a story of two men who reflect two main sides of self-centeredness: a Pharisee and a tax collector. But what are these two sides of self-centeredness, and how can each of us fall into them?
The Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14, even though he talks about honoring God, doesn’t really believe he needs God. He thinks he has it all figured out. Nowadays, we don’t have Pharisees, but we do have pharisaism. These aren’t just people who are very involved at church – that’s not bad. It’s the people who are very involved and think they’re justified on that basis or that they’re holier than others on that basis – pride. If that’s the case, then they are like the Pharisee in this story, and we know God is not okay with this:
Proverbs 3:34 (NIV) He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
The Tax Collector
We can be self-centered as “tax collectors,” too. We can become so focused on our sins, shortcomings, and failures that we refuse the grace of God, the work of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins, and the help of other Christians. We choose to wallow in self-pity and false humility – which is actually pride in disguise – beating ourselves up and proclaiming over and over that we are just so unworthy. The Apostle Paul condemned this sort of attitude in Colossian 2:16-23.
We Must Turn Outward to God, Not Inward to Ourselves
The problem with both of these mindsets is that our focus is on ourselves, not on God and what he has done for us. Whether we think we’re good enough for God and are sort of doing him a favor, or whether we are so wracked with self-pity that we would never look to God, we are, in both cases, focusing on ourselves instead of on him.
The tax collector in Jesus’s parable is a good example of true humility. He doesn’t stay in a place of shame, but instead truly seeks God’s forgiveness and receives it on the basis of his true humility and repentance.
Where Do You Stand?
Where are you on the spectrum of Pharisee and tax collector? We can all gravitate toward shame and self-loathing or toward self-righteousness and pride. Regardless of which direction you lean, it’s crucial that you humble yourself before God and recognize that though we will never be enough, Jesus will never not be enough.