Jolly beggars - Hope 103.2

Jolly beggars

By David ReayTuesday 7 Feb 2017LifeWords DevotionalsFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


Read Luke 18:9-14

9 Jesus told a story to some people who thought they were better than others and who looked down on everyone else:

10 Two men went into the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood over by himself and prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not greedy, dishonest, and unfaithful in marriage like other people. And I am really glad that I am not like that tax collector over there. 12 I go without eating for two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all I earn.”

13 The tax collector stood off at a distance and did not think he was good enough even to look up toward heaven. He was so sorry for what he had done that he pounded his chest and prayed, “God, have pity on me! I am such a sinner.”

14 Then Jesus said, “When the two men went home, it was the tax collector and not the Pharisee who was pleasing to God. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.” (CEV)

The late great Leonard Cohen once wrote, “There is a crack in everything; that is how the light gets in”. While he didn’t likely mean it to be a profound description of the grace of God, that is just what it is. We relate to God as broken people without any pretense of superior holiness or morality.

It is one of the sad ironies of faith and life that church is still seen as being only for ‘good’ people, or more cynically, for those who reckon they are ‘good’. All the while, Jesus tells us something very different. As in this parable: it is the broken-hearted ones who lament their failures who are right with God. Those who figure they are pretty good are strangers to God.

This does not mean we immerse ourselves in misery. Our brokenness is not the final word. Those who mourn for their brokenness receive comfort according to Jesus. Our imperfections do not leave us sunk in a pit of despair but are meant to drive us to the perfect love and goodness of Jesus.

The church is to be a community thirsting for grace, not a self-satisfied group of spiritual ‘know-alls’. In the words of C. S. Lewis, we delight in acceptance of our need and dependence. We become ‘jolly beggars’.

David Reay