Luke 18 vs 9 - 14
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” 13 ‘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.” 14 ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Not so long ago if you were given to blowing your own trumpet and telling any who would listen how good you were at anything be it sport or a job, someone would quickly put it right with a comment to bring you down a peg or two. Today, it’s almost expected that you should talk yourself up. The danger is it all tips over too easily and we run the risk of becoming what is known today as a blagueur, which the Oxford Dictionary terms a pretentious talker. We get plenty of that kind of thing on programmes like The Apprentice which admittedly makes good entertainment because the participants are generally so outrageous and bristling with confidence but a blagueur in the mix always helps.
I reckon that the Pharisee Jesus spoke about in the parable above would have fitted right in with the cast of The Apprentice. He wasn’t behind the door at telling God how good he was and so much better than certain types he might encounter. I’m sure he believed that God was fortunate to have him onboard. Dream on! The lesson is clear it isn’t those who are filled with a confidence in their own righteousness that are justified before God but the one, like the tax collector, who knows exactly what is wrong in his life, and has confessed it before God. That is humility.
Right through the bible we read that humility is a characteristic God values in people whereas it is the proud, the blagueurs he opposes. Peter puts it like this in his first letter... “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”
More than most Peter should know what he’s talking about, before Jesus was arrested he boasted of his unshakable commitment, his willingness even to die with Jesus. Within hours, in the courtyard of the High Priest that boast fell in tatters around him, ripped to shreds by three denials. Paul too, described himself as the foremost of sinners because he had opposed Christ and persecuted the church but Paul was forgiven and Peter was restored and both were used greatly by God in the service of Jesus and the kingdom.
Lord Sugar, or Alan as we know him, quickly susses out the blagueurs and marks their cards but God who knows the heart makes no mistakes, he misjudges no-one so nothing it to be gained by trying to pull the wool over his eyes. He opposes the proud but lifts the humble. Be honest then about your sin, your failings and the weaknesses you struggle with daily, confess humbly, turn from them to Jesus. It is the humble and the repentant that he chooses to use.