Read Luke 18:9-14
9-12 He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray,one a Pharisee,the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh,God,I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers,crooks,adulterers,or,heaven forbid,like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
13 “Meanwhile the tax man,slumped in the shadows,his face in his hands,not daring to look up,said,’God,give mercy. Forgive me,a sinner.'”
14 Jesus commented,”This tax man,not the other,went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air,you’re going to end up flat on your face,but if you’re content to be simply yourself,you will become more than yourself.” (THE MESSAGE)
It has been said that the one basic difference between Christianity and other faiths is that in most other faiths,getting right with God is about our somehow ascending to his level. Christianity,by contrast,is about God descending to our level.
Christianity is not about our trying to be good enough to get right with God. It is about our realising we can never be good enough and instead putting our trust in the perfect goodness of Jesus. This short parable illustrates the point. Those who reckon they are pretty acceptable to God on their own merits are not accepted. Those who recognise they are unacceptable on their own merits end up being accepted.
We bring no heroic deeds or religious disciplines to God in order to impress him. We bring only a recognition of our brokenness and a belief he can put us back together again. As the old hymn reminds us,”Nothing in my hand I bring,simply to thy cross I cling”. Clinging to our own real or imagined goodness means we cannot open our hands to receive the only goodness that matters: the perfect goodness of Jesus.