I Stand With This Tax Collector.

Jesus told this parable:

The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector…

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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 18:9, 11, 13-14

Until I pondered this scripture, I never thought I’d want to be associated with a tax collector. Either then or now. 

During the time of Christ, tax collectors were known to amass wealth by demanding tax payments from the Jews in excess of what Roman occupiers required and then they’d pocket the difference. Not the kind of guy who earned a My Child Was Citizen of the Month bumper sticker…whose mom might then have displayed it proudly on the backside of the family’s donkey.

It’s one thing for a guy to do his job and collect money owed as per Roman rule but an entirely different matter to do so dishonestly and steal from citizens.

These reviled guys held an unfavorable rep. Duly earned.

Except this tax collector…

In Luke 18, one lone guy captures the heart of God.

Entering the temple to pray alongside a Pharisee, the tax collector is referenced in the Pharisee’s prayer as ‘this tax collector’.

I can’t help but read a hint of disdain in his words, or, no, his – fake cough – prayer. He might have even tossed a sharp thumb over his shoulder at the tax man in the midst of what God must have judged to be a rankling oratory. 

Sure the collector may have taken money for himself beyond what was owed or maybe he refused to tithe. Scripture doesn’t say. Nor does it matter. Or scripture would have saidBut from the prayer he uttered, they guy publicly acknowledged his sinful state before Almighty God.

That was huge.

Contrasted with the Pharisee, note this tax collector’s posture:

He 1) stood at a distance and 2) was unwilling to glance heavenward (vs 13).

Before he even spoke, his humble heart was evident. At that point, God could have easily pronounced from heaven, “I exalt you, son.”

This tax collector humbled himself. So God exalted him.

The Pharisee was busy working up his own exultation — and doing a pathetic job at that. So God humbled him.

I tell you that this man (tax guy), rather than the other, went home justified before God.

Luke 18:14a

Hard as it is to admit when I’m wrong – and sometimes I am 🙂 – I’d rather confess with raw authenticity and go home justified before God.

I guess the Osmonds had it right. One bad apple don’t (always) spoil the whole bunch :)…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQDOQhobRLY

May God make my heart like that of this tax collector.

As you enter this weekend, join me in paying attention your posture before God.  Will you be justified or need to be brought down a notch?

10 Comments

  1. Margaret says:

    What a great example of the heart God wants to find! I love your “bumper sticker on the back of the donkey”!
    Keep writing, Sister.

    • Mary Felkins says:

      It struck me how – joining in with group mentality – I’d always lumped all tax collectors into one bunch and labeled them “deplorable”. God looks at the heart.

  2. Stacey Weeks says:

    Such truth! Thanks for posting <3

  3. Bumper sticker on the donkey! Too funny!

    • Mary Felkins says:

      I only mention that because this household has never seen the first of those stickers 🙁 But still, amazing kids in their own right. Blessings!

  4. Great post and so true!
    Good luck and God’s blessings
    PamT

  5. I love how Jesus turned pre-conceived notions on their heads. It reminds me not to judge people by the labels others have applied to them. Sometimes the very best thing to be is the one everybody refuses. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Mary Felkins says:

      We sure do judge others by the labels put on by others. Wow. I love your insightful perspective — “be the one everybody refuses” How about that for YOUR next blog?? Thanks, friend.

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