Pride goeth before a fall.
That’s good solid biblical wisdom. The complete quotation is:
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor
than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:18-19
This was written long before Jesus, but Jesus exemplifies this spirit of humility better than anybody.
We don’t see much humility in the world today. As we endure the end of the election campaigns, humility is sorely lacking on all sides. We hear lots of promises, brags, and boasts, with easy solutions to complex problems in the world. How refreshing it would be to hear a national leader or candidate say, “This is a hard problem, not easily solved. It will take time. It will require sacrifice from all of us.” How good it would be if someone were talking about the misery of the poorest people in our rich country, not to mention the world.
As we consider Jesus’ parable about the proud Pharisee, and the humble tax collector, we can all (I assume) think of times when we ourselves gloated like the Pharisee. We can also remember times when we’ve been brought low by life, and cried out for mercy from God to save us and lift us up. Usually we live our lives somewhere between these two extremes.
Jesus was critical of this bragging Pharisee because he was so proud. Yet many of the Pharisee’s practices were actually very good. He gave away a tenth of his income…surely that is admirable! Think what the church and other charities could do if everybody tithed! This man fasted twice a week, which can be a meaningful spiritual practice. No, it was not his outer behaviors that were wrong; it was his prideful attitude about them…and his need to compare himself with others. What can we learn from the Pharisee as we make our own journey of faith? JBM