Summary: Part 4 of a 6 part series on the 12 Steps as a Spiritual Discipline
It was either the spring of 1968 or 1969 because at the time my mom was teaching kindergarten at a church about a half-mile from our home for two years before it went into our public school system in 1970. But it was spring because it was also baseball season.
Now normally we would play either in my backyard or in the field behind a neighbor’s house (which was fenced off a few years ago by order of the EPA because it was the well field where the water pump stations were located for our section of the housing plat we lived in.) Rarely did we play baseball in the front yard because of the large picture window in the living room.
But that would change on this May afternoon. There were only two of us, my neighbor Frank and me, playing that afternoon. Frank was pitching and I was hitting.
A foul ball hit down the third base line went into the street. A hit directly over Frank’s head would go into my neighbor’s unfenced side yard. A fowl ball down the first base line went, well, toward the house… and the picture window.
I foul tipped one down the first base line and through the picture window that my mom was sitting in front of dressed up, reading the evening paper and getting ready for the kindergarten graduation ceremony that evening! She got a glass cut on her leg and I think the baseball hit the paper she was holding and landed on the floor in front of her.
You’re out! Ball game over! In the house I went. Waiting for my father to come home. I think that was the only time I remember her saying, ‘Wait till your father gets home!’ So I waited… under my bed… in fear and trembling.
I apologized for my actions and I was very humble when I did so because I knew that punishment and discipline would come quickly. I do not remember what the punishment and discipline was, but I am sure that it involved no more baseball in the front yard.
(Now I also broke a neighbor’s collarbone in what would be our last game of tackle football … but that is another story!)
(Slide 1) This morning we continue our study of 12 steps to God’s way of living with an examination of Step 7 – We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. The key word for this step is humility. And our main text for this morning reveals the impact humility has on our relationship with the Lord.
Let’s take some time to compare the attitudes of these two men and the difference it made to Jesus. (Slide 2) First, is the Pharisee who said:
I am not a sinner like everyone else
I never cheat,
I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery
I fast twice a week
I give you a tenth of my income
Pretty confident this guy is. He had done quite a bit of good over the years. Probably highly thought of in his local synagogue. A leader perhaps.
(Slide 3) Then, there is the ‘Dishonest’ Tax Collector who said:
… • I am a sinner
Is there any hope for this guy? He seems pretty ‘far away’ from the standards of the Pharisee. He has nothing good to brag about! He has not done a good job of getting things right. How can God help him?
What a contrast between the two! One felt sure of his spiritual condition because he had done the necessary things to be ‘spiritual.’ The other one was just the opposite. He felt so sorry for his sins, his defects of character that he simply begged for forgiveness and threw himself on the mercy of God.
What was the difference between the two? The attitude of humility is the difference. To be humble is not to be a groveling fool with no dignity. I like what has been written about the core principle of humility in some of AA’s material. It is ‘a desire to seek and do God’s will.’
The tax collector wanted to seek and do God’s will which involves being truly repentant of one’s shortcomings. The Pharisee thought that he was okay because his behavior was right but his attitude was warped because, as anyone who has overcome an addiction can tell you, an attitude of self-sufficiency or self-righteousness will quickly get you in trouble. (Slide 4) Jesus makes that clear in his concluding statement, “For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.”
(Slide 5) One of my favorite verses is I John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”