Q. Re: Luke 18:9-14, the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. For whatever reason, I love this scripture, but at the same time, it scares me. I’m sure I’m to look at the very first part of the scripture for the context. But, I am thankful for so many things that could be part of my life but are not. I’m not on drugs or alcohol, I don’t commit crimes, etc. I know this is not from my own power, I know it is the Lord. But how can I pray to express my thankfulness for not being caught up in these lifestyles without it seeming that I’m exalting myself like the Pharisee?
A. Here’s the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector;
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“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.’
“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.”
As you pointed out the context of this parable is people who are confident of their own righteousness and look down on everyone else. Notice the Pharisee appears to be thanking God, but he’s really bragging about himself. And he made no mention of the fact that regardless of his external behavior, at heart he was still a sinner in need of forgiveness.
There’s nothing wrong with being thankful for a good life, as long as you give the credit for everything to God, as you have done, and recognize that you’re still a sinner in need of forgiveness.