Lent is upon us once again. I'm not going to bother with giving something up, though. Whenever I tell myself, "I'm going to give up X for 40 days," it never happens. I do, however, want to get back into using the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer for daily Bible reading. I kinda fell out of the habit a few weeks ago.
The gospel reading for Ash Wednesday is Luke 18:9-14--
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
We all love to identify with the tax collector. We've all been the person standing in the back of the church afraid to show his/her face. But I think sometimes we can be the Pharisee. I know I can.
In the parable, the Pharisee proudly lists his accomplishments before God. "I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of all my income. I do this. I do that." And if I can be honest with you, I sometimes find myself bragging about my own accomplishments. "Oh, I'm not like those other Christians. I'm LGBT-inclusive. I'm egalitarian. I buy fair-trade."
Now don't get me wrong. All of those things are good things. But not when you do them just to show off to your friends, you know?
So hopefully this Lent, we can all learn to be more like the tax collector and less like the Pharisee.
In what ways are you the Pharisee?