And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.
The italics are mine, and I am "some people."
self-righteous: convinced of one's own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others : narrow-mindedly moralistic.
contempt: the feeling that a person or thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving of scorn.
It's even more painful to read the parable that Jesus told to some people, ie. me.
It's the one where the Pharisee (a Jewish teacher who knows well the stories of God and the Ten Commandments and more) goes to the temple to pray. (If that's even what you can call it.)
He stands. He does not kneel or bow his head, let alone prostrate himself.
He thanks God for his elevated ethics. You know, that he doesn't steal things or sleep around.
He highlights for God his spiritual practices - scheduled fasting, calculated giving.
"Obsessed with his own virtue" is how one person put it.
He celebrates with God that he is nothing like the tax collector (a Jewish collaborator with the Roman Empire) who has come to pray at the same time.
You know, the one lying face down next to him.
The one unwilling to lift his eyes to heaven.
The one agonizing over and acknowledging his sinful ways.
The one begging for God's mercy.
Unpleasant as it is, being faced with your (my) "some people" status and finally (or at least more fully) agreeing with it is a gift. It's the answer to one of those reluctant (but persistent out of desperation in my case) prayers to be made aware. The result of this prayer specifically...
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalm 139: 23-24
There are hurtful ways in me, but I want the everlasting way.
So with the tax collector I pray, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!"
And even if those are just words on a page in my journal, I pray He will hear them as true prayer and real pleas to be set free from my "some people" status.
By the way, I painted my kitchen this week. Hours and hours and layers and layers of white primer and then white paint. It looks great. Really beautiful. So clean and crisp. Just like new. Yet with every stroke, I was reminded of Jesus and the Pharisees. So, I think I'll have more to say about "some people" and their (my) whitewashed tomb tendencies soon, because I think I might finally be getting it? Maybe.