Who Am I?
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. Luke 18:11 (NIV)
It was a normal day as I was waited for the red light to change when I noticed the billboard of a small church. The sign read, “We see things not as they are, but as we are.” As I reflected on the truth of quote, I realized how often we interpret the circumstances surrounding our lives through the lens of how we view ourselves. If I am a positive person, I will more likely view my circumstances in a positive way. If I feel rejected, when someone fails to say hello to me, I may view this as another rejection, when in reality, they may not have seen me or their mind may have been on something else. The amazing truth on that billboard has the potential to free us to become more aware of who we really are and how to correctly interpret the circumstances of our lives. It is difficult to truly view ourselves correctly when we listen to what others say about us, but it is even more difficult to see ourselves the way Jesus sees us!
This truth comes to life in a parable Jesus tells about two men who prayed. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus speaks of two men who interpret who they are based on their actions. One man, a Pharisee who stresses his self-righteousness, and the other, a tax collector who was despised by his fellow Jews and considered a sinner. The Pharisee saw himself as righteous and the tax collector as a sinner. The tax collector saw himself as a sinner and the Pharisee as a righteous man. I find it interesting that Jesus said the Pharisee stood and prayed to himself. His prayers were about himself, to himself, and to impress others about himself. The tax collector prayed for mercy and was so aware of the holiness of God he could not look toward heaven. For the first time, the tax collector saw things as they were rather than as he believed they were.
When we base our self worth on what we do, we are as deluded as the Pharisee. The Pharisee’s pride condemned him while the tax collector’s humble faith saved him. God sees us differently than we see ourselves. The One who created us and died for us determines our self-worth. If what we “do” determines our self-worth then all men would not be created equal, and we would never be able to “do” enough to feel worthy. I’m so thankful Jesus loves me! And because I’m His child, I know I am of value. We live in a “performance based” world, and it’s difficult not to transfer the world’s mentality to God’s value system. However, because of Jesus’s sacrifice, we are accepted by God because of “whose” we are rather than what we’ve done. I am personally very thankful for this truth because I’m not consistent enough to do everything right all the time. If what I do determines who I am, I will never feel worthy to call God my Father!
In this parable, the Pharisee was pleased with his behavior, but God was displeased with his heart. God and the tax collector were both displeased with the tax collector’s behavior, but God was pleased with his heart. When asked, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind.” When we love God with all our heart, we will see ourselves correctly because we are looking through God’s eyes. God sees each of us as His precious child, and that’s who I am! Who are you?
Further Reading Luke 18:9-14; Matthew 22:36-37; Ephesians 1:18; Proverbs 15:30; Proverbs 21:2