Saved by Grace, Through Faith-A A +A
The Good News
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
THIS Sunday’s gospel is taken from Luke 18:9-14. It is about a parable of two men who went up to the temple to pray -- one was a Pharisee and the other one was a tax collector.
The Pharisee’s prayer went on this way, “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.” The tax collector, on the other hand, stood at a distance, not even looking up to heaven but beating his breast saying, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Who among the two men went home justified? Jesus tells us, it was the tax collector. Why? Because of his humility. He concludes, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
It doesn’t take much effort to be able to differentiate between the two prayers. The Pharisee’s prayer focused on himself, not on God. He approached God, boasting about who he is, and what good works he does. Perhaps he thought that by his good deeds, God must feel indebted to repay him with blessings. But it was not so.
The tax collector’s prayer sprang from a lowly and sincere heart. The man’s gestures -- standing at a distance, not looking up to heaven, and beating his breast -- all these show acknowledgement of the man’s insignificance and unworthiness before a holy God. The tax collector did not justify the evil he may have done; neither did he enumerate whatever small acts of goodness he may have performed. Rather, he accepted who he was -- a sinner who needs God’s mercy. For doing this, God heard his prayer.
What a wonderful portrayal of the timeless lesson of justification. We are saved not because of what we have done; we are saved because of our acceptance of what our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, has done for us.
Ephesians 2:8-9 declares, “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The best work that we can do pales in comparison to God’s standard of holiness. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
We are saved not because we are good; we are able to do good because we are saved. The book of Ephesians, cited earlier, continues in Chapter 2, Verse 10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on October 24, 2013.