We’re continuing on our journey through Micah 6:8 in an effort to avoid the folly of becoming Camel Swallowers. In this verse, the Lord’s messenger, Micah, delivered God’s requirements for mankind: seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. Just as applying justice can never be accomplished outside of the context of first receiving the gift of Jesus Christ who paid the debt we owed for our sin, being people who love mercy can never truly be accomplished without first having received mercy. In other words, we are powerless to accomplish matters of the Law apart from possessing the mercy provided by the Law Giver.
So, in order to be women of wisdom, let’s take a look at how to receive mercy in a way that allows us to truly love it rather than just pretending to love it. (Read the remainder of this post with your heart as well as your mind. Ask yourself personal questions to engage beyond the superficial.)
Jesus generally taught important concepts using stories rather than simply providing checklists filled with platitudes about doing good things and avoiding bad things. One reason for this is that, ideally, things like justice, mercy, and humility are not simply things we do, they are things we are becoming. Once, while teaching on the subject of receiving mercy, Jesus taught the following parable (or short story):
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 (NLT)
Don’t be fooled by Mr. Pharisee. He was only pretending to pray to take advantage of the opportunity to brag about his own achievements. He compared himself to others he viewed as worse off than himself, rather than doing what he should have done — comparing himself to God’s perfect and universal standard. In the words of my pastor, this guy was “so good, he was bad!” Do you know anyone like that? Are you like that? Have you been this way in the past?
To better answer these questions, let’s bring this Pharisee a couple thousand years into the future and make him a female who walks among us. Today, this gal may follow any of the following patterns . . .
She compares her godly parenting to struggling mothers, rather than with our perfect Parent, God the Father.
She compares her relationship with her husband to difficult marriages, rather than the picture of Christ and His Bride, the Church.
She compares her purity with ladies who are outwardly less wholesome, rather than a God so pure that a lustful thought equals being guilty of adultery in the heart.
She compares her perfectionistic housekeeping abilities to less orderly households, rather than a God who sovereignly orders all things — good and bad.
She compares her work or ministry success to the lesser achievements of others, rather than comparing her efforts to the perfect ministry of Jesus Christ.
She compares her knowledge of Scripture to those with less spiritual understanding, rather than comparing her knowledge to Jesus’ gracious display of wisdom and discernment.
She compares the externals of her beauty and her possessions to those who are less “put together,” rather than comparing the beauty of her whole person with the beauty of the spotless Savior.
You see, when we stop comparing ourselves to anything and everything that we can deem as “less than” who we are trying so hard to make ourselves out to be, and we start comparing ourselves to the utter perfection of a holy God, we can only do one thing. We become the tax collector. We see ourselves in need — no, make that desperately in need of God’s mercy. Only when we see how bad off we really are before such a great God — NOT compared to others — will we receive what Christ paid such a high price to give us. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” (NASB)
But wait! That’s not all. If we have truly been the tax collector at heart and received mercy, then we need to be mercy to others as Christ was mercy to us. That’s what the requirement of “loving mercy” is all about. After receiving mercy, let’s not go back to comparing ourselves to others, but in our efforts to please God with our words and actions, let’s match up who we are on the outside with what Chirst has set us free to be from the inside. Let us also encourage others to look to Christ as their standard of measuring themselves. Otherwise, comparing ourselves to others is like flipping the coin of pride. It will inevitably land on the side of self-righteous arrogance or the side of slavery to ongoing personal insecurity. Without Jesus Christ, we cannot break free from the destructive path of pride, which always keeps us from receiving mercy and becoming mercy in the lives of others.
- Humility vs. Pride (joequatronejr.wordpress.com)