The first man was sure of himself. He knew what his life was. He knew where he was going. He had everything under control. And he’d tell anyone who would listen.
The second man was unsure. He was successful, rich even. But he no longer knew where he was going. Life seemed out of control. And the pain of it ached secretly inside him.
The first man had come to the temple to boast. Careful with his charitable giving and his disciplined ways, he knew he was leading a good life. Certainly better than others and that’s what counted.
The second man had come to the temple to search his heart. Greed, exploitation, theft, selfishness had been his life. He knew he had gone down a bad path and it had trapped him.
Both men prayed. The first had expectations: he felt God was on his side. The second almost despaired: he felt God hated what he was and he wondered if he could be forgiven.
But what did God make of them both?
The first man didn’t impress. He was always comparing himself with others and coming out well, without finding out if that’s really the way to test a life. It isn’t. God has a much higher standard.
The second man was different, however. He only looked at himself. He saw he had hurt others. His saw his life had failed. God looked at him and saw a humble man, wanting to change.
The time came to leave. The first went home smiling, but further away from God than he’d ever been. The second went home forgiven and closer to God than he’d ever been.
This story isn’t mine; it’s Jesus’. He used it to challenge those he met. Some thought they knew God well, when in fact they didn’t even know themselves. None of us really does. But Jesus can show us the truth. It’s not an easy lesson because much is wrong in us: we’re sinners. But seeing that is the first step back to God.
These words come from the “Contact” leaflet we distributed in the autumn of 2016. To see the whole leaflet, please click here: Contact – Autumn 2016 (PDF)