“What do you want?” It’s a question we often ask of others. Want…we want a lot of things throughout our life. The “wants” of our life fall into many categories and fill our prayers…better health, a new house, a new car, a new job…the lists are long. We want a great many things and our motivations are important. Specifically, trusting in ourself vs. trusting in God. This trust is a common theme throughout the Bible. The Israelites wanted out of bondage in Egypt but complained repeatedly in the desert…all the while being blind to the ever faithful presence and grace of God. Blindness of our position to God is a common problem. We see this in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector from Luke’s gospel – Luke 18:9-14. The heart of this parable comes down to the Pharisee asking nothing of God – he believes that who he is and what he does is ample evidence of his piety. On the other hand, the tax collector states his unworthiness before God. The Pharisee asks nothing of God and the tax collector boasts nothing before God. Trusting in our own righteousness often leads to regarding others with contempt and turning away from trusting in God’s grace. This parable is more than a warning against arrogance, self-reliance or a relationship with God because of one’s own works – things that blind us to the other side of this parable…which shows the ugly combination of claiming an elevated position with God and contempt for the tax collector. The Pharisee had enough religion to be virtuous but not enough to be humble…and it drove him away from the tax collector instead of toward him.
Both the Pharisee and the tax collector went to the temple to pray. In our prayers we too must be conscious of any tendency to play the role of the Pharisee. Instead of “What do you want?”, maybe a better position to place ourselves in is one of humility and ask, “What does God want?”…and in so doing drawing us closer together as the body of Christ.