by Kathy Matuschka
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But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:13).
This week, we are focusing on repentance: hooray! As humans, it’s one of the places we least like to go, and being a Christian doesn’t immunise us to this reluctance.
Take today’s reading, for example. If you ask yourself, ‘Am I the Pharisee or tax collector?’, there is no comfortable answer. If you’re the Pharisee, then everyone but you knows you have some significant issues and need to start repenting. If you’re the tax collector, then you are vulnerable. The tax collector doesn’t repent in the privacy of his room, but rather, he declares his sinfulness in a public place. In doing so, he opens the door for others to point their fingers at him, and the Pharisee needs no second invitation to do just that!
The tax collector gets the kudos in this story, but does anyone really want everyone to see them in a vulnerable state like that?
The tax collector isn’t simply playing a socially acceptable, virtue-signalling humility game. Instead, he responds viscerally to the repentance God’s Spirit has worked in his soul.
When God’s Spirit convicts us of the need to repent, we don’t care about others’ judgements. We simply confess to God and say, ‘It was me. I’m the one’, just as the Apostle Paul does in 1 Timothy 1:15.
Today’s text challenges us to fall on our knees and declare, ‘I’ve got nothing, God. Do whatever you want with me.’
Are we ready to go there this week?
Dear God, I invite your Spirit to help me this week. Work in my heart: expose my self-reliance and remind me of my utter dependence on you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Kathy Matuschka loves gazing at and walking within God’s creation, listening to stories of life and faith, and spending time with family and friends. She serves within the LCA Queensland District as Assistant Director for Ministry & Mission.