A pharisee and a tax collector walk into a temple ...
Two people go to the temple. The first, while thinking about all the things he does right, thanks God that he's not like other, shall we say 'undesirable', people. You know, bad folks like thieves, and cheaters, and tax collectors. He goes on and on about all the things he does right like fasting and tithing. He's super righteous, we get it. [Insert eye roll here.]
The second, a tax collector, doesn't even lift his eyes heavenward as he beats his breast and begs God to have mercy on him.
Who of these is humble and who is really, really busy exalting himself?
I'll give you a minute ...
In this week's Gospel Jesus declares: “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
What a declaration!
Alas, being humble is much easier said than done. Humility means taking time to see things another way. The one lacking humility sees the world in one way, and Jesus sees it much differently.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he constantly challenges people to shift their perspective. He envisions a world where people don't see themselves as better than others, but rather see something holy in each other. He envisions a world where people don't lift themselves higher than others, but rather take time to understand those who are different.
It is so easy to exalt ourselves and so, so hard to be humble.
But it's important to remember that Jesus loved the humble person and the one who exalted himself.
Jesus died for the humble person and the one who exalted himself.
And he loves us enough to challenge us to change our perspective. Because maybe if we see things differently, then we might treat each other differently. And if we treat each other differently, then maybe the world would be changed into a place where all people have value, all people are seen, and all people have what they need.
Jesus was so ahead of his time. Jesus is still ahead of his time. His ideas were and remain so radical.
Jesus loves to challenge us because he knows what kind of people we can be. He knows what kind of world we can have.
He went to the cross because of his love for us, and we respond to that by trying to see the world differently, trying to see each other in the best light, and to live lives of humility in which we try to create the world that Jesus has envisioned for us.
Living life humbly is a challenge, and oh, what a blessing it is to be challenged by Jesus!