“Jesus told this story to some people who thought they were very good and looked down on everyone else: “A Pharisee and a tax collector both went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee stood alone and prayed, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people who steal, cheat, or take part in adultery, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give one-tenth of everything I get!’ “The tax collector, standing at a distance, would not even look up to heaven. But he beat on his chest because he was so sad. He said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” Luke 18:9-13 (NCV)
Self-righteousness can be a little tricky. A prideful personality can blind us from learning valuable lessons in life.
A group of teenage boys decided to have a little fun by toilet papering a classmate’s yard. Boys will be boys, I know, but what started out as a playful prank took a turn for the worse when three of the ten used post-it notes to leave a rather crude message. My first thought was, “Post-it notes – how clever. And so much easier to cleanup over the spray paint of my day.” Then I quickly faced the reality of the foul content; after all, one of the three was mine.
This I know to be true. It’s difficult to acknowledge when our kids make bad choices.
While one mother focused on pointing fingers and shifting blame, others saw an opportunity to teach a life lesson. At this point it was irrelevant who thought up the idea, providing an “out” wouldn’t change what had happened. Now was the time to make amends. Now was the time to make things right!
We all helped the boys spring into action. They faced their error in judgment head-on and took steps to resolve the matter quickly. Thankfully, the family was understanding and graciously accepted their outreach of apologies. If these tangible lessons of accountability and responsibility take hold, I believe it’s a step (albeit a tad erratic) in the right direction.
Now, the rest of the story from Luke.
“I tell you,” said Jesus, “the tax collector, and not the Pharisee, was in the right with God when he went home. For those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.” Luke 18:14 (GNT)
There were a few ‘tax collectors’ heading home at the end of that day on our street. Almost all of the teens accepted responsibility for their actions and learned a little about doing what’s right for next time. I’m thinking ahead here: a post-it note heart might be a clever way to invite a date to the prom!
Don’t make excuses! Take responsibility for the choices that you make. Self-righteousness and pride may prevent you from hearing God’s voice in your life!