Be Still my Soul (Part 2): Running from Loneliness

This message of stillness is continually being brought up in my life in different ways, and I think the Lord has a message that He is still trying to teach. I want to talk more about our inclination to run … Continue reading

The Humility of the Tax Collector

pharisee and tax collector

There is a very important lesson that Jesus teaches us from this parable of the tax collector and the pharisee going to pray in the temple. I invite you to read this short passage from today’s gospel and reflect upon it. What really touches your heart and grabs your attention?

Luke 18:9-14

“Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. ‘Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’”

I want to really dig deeper into this idea of humbling oneself before the Lord. What does it really mean to be humble? One way we can discover the meaning of humility is to look at the examples of the saints and of Christ Himself. The history of our church is filled with so many selfless followers of Christ who truly emptied themselves of all self-righteousness. But the key to a true humility isn’t about striving to be humble, but striving to be holy. C. S. Lewis once said that “Humility is not about thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less.”

humility quote

Yet how often do we confuse the fruits of true humility and believe the lie that to truly be humble, we must think of ourselves as not important. Not only this, but we may also get so caught up in trying to be humble that we lose sight of our true purpose and calling. The answer is that we should not think so much about our own humility, but rather we should focus so much on God that we cease to think of ourselves.

Humility isn’t something you work hard to gain by constantly thinking about it. When we desire approval and acceptance in this world (results of pride), we have to be honest with ourselves about these desires. We all have this inclination to seek the approval and praise of others, and if we think we are being humble by completely ignoring that desire, we will find ourselves only seeking that approval even more. We will find ourselves resisting attention on purpose or completely rejecting any compliments… But this isn’t the true way of humility. So, then, what do we do with these desires for attention and approval?

The answer is quite simple: We are to completely satisfy that desire with God. Think again about the saints, and in a special way about Mother Teresa. When you think of Mother Teresa, the first word that many of us use to describe her life would be service. She had this close and intimate relationship with God so that her identity in Him was secure. Because her worth was constantly found in God alone, that desire was ultimately fulfilled. From that fulfillment, she was able to fully serve God and she reached a profound place of humility. She no longer thought of herself. She was filled by God, understood her true worth and identity, and by making that strong relationship with God her foundation, was able to fully know her purpose and calling.

mother-teresa-quotes-sayings-018So let us really reflect in our hearts our true calling to humility. If we seek out the Lord in an absolute and pure way, He will ultimately transform our hearts into one like His. The tax collector was honest with God about his sinfulness. If we want to truly be righteous before the Lord, we must also come before Him with our hearts exactly as they are, with all the sins and scars. He will heal it, He will fill our deepest desires, and He will transform our hearts if we let Him.