"I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
Be prepared to be shocked. God might just appreciate humility more than proper moral action. There, I said it. You walk into most churches and you can almost taste the subtle tone of judgments. "I heard she just went through treatment." "Can you believe they had to go through bankruptcy?" "Did you know he's been divorced three times?" The great and little judgments feel never ending. Yet, here is Jesus' parable "exulting" the sinner and condemning the holier-than-thou.
In the first century CE, wealthy Jews would pay Rome for the opportunity to be "publicans" or tax collectors. Then, these same tax collectors would gouge other Jews in their community with high taxes that would cover Rome's tax requirements, but make huge sums of money for themselves. The Jews hated them for both religious and social reasons. They were considered unclean for working in coordination with the heathen Romans. The tax collectors were also hated for lining their pockets on the backs of their own people.
Yet, as sinful and corrupt as the tax collector was, he knew his sin and was humble enough to repent and admit his need for God's grace and mercy. Meanwhile, the holy man, the respected Pharisee, is relying on his own moral upright actions. The Pharisee was certainly more moral and upright, but he is still left wanting, because he acts as if God is somehow unnecessary.
Today, spend a few moments contemplating your own shortcomings. It should not be a pity party, or a reason to fall into a guilty depression. While God desires us to be good, moral people, God is even more concerned with the recognition that we are not our own god. It is a central expectation that we never forget that our lives are eternally in the hands of the Triune God. Moral perfection can never replace our humble need for God. Spend your prayer today, thanking God for God's divine care and forgiving love given you. Invite God into your heart each new day, and trust that God will not cast you out. God loves you that much.