Whenever I read this story it is a wake up call because it reminds me that I am just a few arrogant thoughts away from being distant and disconnected from God. It starts off with “Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness…” and tells the story of a religious expert who compares himself to a notorious sinner in the community.
There are two problems with the Pharisee’s thinking: first, he compares his life with that of a notorious sinner and even here he gets seriously off track. Sure the Pharisee’s actions were probably more acceptable, but he misses the motives behind them completely. God places a very high value on the intentions of our actions. The second problem is the Pharisee didn’t consider God’s opinion, just his own. When you read his prayer it is a resume declaring his awesomeness rather than approaching God with humility and love. The tax collector took the humble route – the one that God will always bless.
The issue here is simple: is my prayer fueled by a growing recognition of God’s supreme awesomeness or am I trying to convince Him and others of my own?