There are stories in the Bible that can truly shape us, if we let them. When I was an adolescent, I struggled with being accepted and fitting in. But at the same time, I also had a lot of confidence coming from some accomplishments (like sports and grades) and parents who really encouraged me. I was confident yet insecure, and completely confused about my self-worth.
One of the stories that shaped me, and how I see myself, is the Parable of the Tax collector and the Pharisee, told by Jesus in Luke 18. The Pharisee looked up to God in confidence and proudly proclaimed that he was a good man, better than many others, and much better than the tax collector. He lived an exemplary life, but he had the wrong attitude, the wrong understanding of himself. The tax collector stood at a distance – not even looking up to heaven – and beat his breast in shame for the actions that he had done and the person that he was. He asked God for forgiveness and mercy. Jesus said that the tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home justified before God.
I have pretty much lived my life like the Pharisee (though I’ve gotten into my fair share of trouble and caused my fair share of mischief). I have pretty much tried to do good things. But also, like the Pharisee, I have sometimes had the wrong attitude, especially when I was younger. As I let this story shape me, it has shaped how I saw myself. I need to see myself not in comparison with other people but in relationship with Jesus. Too often I had looked at other people and felt so good about myself. What I should have been doing was looking at Jesus and understanding how far I still have to go. This doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be doing good things, or living a moral life, or giving God my best. I strive to do all those things. But how should I understand myself? How should I look at myself? I want to keep my eyes on Jesus, stay humble, and deeply love people.
This story has shaped how I see myself, how I am as a person, and how I am as a pastor. I am still confident, but my confidence now comes not from the things that I have done but from the work that God is doing in me. What are the Bible stories that have shaped you?