July 15, 2012

Knowing Your Place

Luke 18:9-14

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
—Luke 18:13


While I was waiting to catch a plane, a businessman ran up to the airline attendant, demanding immediate entry on the plane. The attendant asked him to go to the end of the line and wait his turn. The man shouted, “Do you know who I am!?” He said he was a senior executive who flew often, and he could have her fired. She said, “Well, I guess I’ll wait for that call, but you’ll still have to go to the end of the line.”

Similarly, one day, Jesus was talking with “some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else.” So he told a story about a Pharisee who approached the temple with a superior attitude. He was thankful he wasn’t “like other people.” His virtues were impeccable. He tithed faithfully. He knew he measured up to the standards of a good religious man.

Then Jesus described the tax collector. He knew he could never measure up to God’s perfection. He cried from a distance, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” He had no sense of entitlement. He made no excuses to justify himself.

Can you feel the painful silence in the room as Jesus exalted a repentant tax collector over a Pharisee? Jesus exalted the man who knew his place in the game of grace. How about you?

Gracious Father, thank you for showing me the dangers of seeking spiritual entitlement. Humble me to know my place in the kingdom—that I’m a sinner saved by grace. In your name, Amen.

About the author — Reginald Smith

Dr. Reginald Smith is senior pastor at Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has served for seventeen years. He has also served as a pastor in Paterson, New Jersey. He and his wife, Sharon, have three daughters, Janelle, Katrina, and Mariah.

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