|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.
Often in the dreary days of winter, or when the school year winds down, teachers and administrators create school-wide activities to bring some excitement to their students. They try “hat day,” or “mis-match day,” or “school colors day.” One such of these special days that I remember we called “Inside Out Day.” Everyone dressed with their clothes inside out.
I got to thinking: What if we wore our personal sins on the outside, instead of hiding them as if those personal sins represent our fraying seams and tags? If we dressed this way all the time, would that make us consider more clearly the way that God sees our sins?
More than fifty years ago, our Houghton College chaplain often said we came to church showing our “respectable exteriors.” We wore our best suits and shoes, showed everyone our smiles, and sang using our heartiest voices. What if everyone could see us on the inside, just as God does? He knows very well our hidden faults and our sins too dreadful and embarrassing to admit.
The parable Jesus told about the tax collector and Pharisee—a religious leader in the temple—illustrates this condition of heart. Jesus wants us to see that we live much of the time like the Pharisee did: respectable, confident in our holy living, and looking down on those we know who have major sin problems. Jesus asked which of the two men He actually justified. He wants us to humbly and willingly show our hidden sins to Him and to bow before Him seeking for His mercy, grace, and forgiving love.
During this Season of Lent, let us make a point of looking at the “wrong side” of our image—the side God alone sees and waits for us to confess to Him. If we need to take a day and wear something inside out, allow it to remind us of God’s all-seeing eyes and His readiness to cleanse us from our sins and dress us in the fullness of His righteousness!