Complacently Pleased

Have you ever met someone who “thought more highly of themselves than they ought”? We all know someone who is conceited, arrogant, braggadocios, and perhaps even narcissistic. They are in our family, in our workplaces, and in our church. On the one hand, it is good to have a certain measure of self-confidence and a healthy dose of self-esteem. But folks who carry that to a new level and think they are better than everyone else are hard to take.

Jesus had the same problem. In a wonderful parable told in the book of Luke, Jesus calls out the showy and self-absorbed Pharisees:

Luke 18 (The Message)

9-12 He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’

First, we have to admire Eugene Peterson’s choice of words in The Message. I laughed out loud at the phrases, “complacently pleased,” “looked down their noses,” and the notion that the Pharisee “posed” to pray. What vivid pictures these words conjure up! We get an image of a totally insufferable religious hypocrite.

Next, Jesus introduced a tax man as the foil to the puffed-up Pharisee. This meant a lot to the hearers of this story, because tax men of the time were the lowest form of humanity, the dredge of society, and the dirtiest scoundrels around. Like politicians, some might say.

13 “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”

14 Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

So, the folks listening to the story were shocked that the tax man was the hero of the tale, and the religious man was the villain.

Jesus’ point here was the level of humble sincerity we must bring to the altar. When the tax man asked for mercy and forgiveness, acknowledging that he was a sinner, he was speaking for all of us. We are that man slumped in the shadows with our faces in our hands. That is where God meets us with his saving grace.

The show-off went home not being made right with God because the show-off couldn’t be honest about his sin. Even though he ticked the boxes of tithing and praying, his heart was insincere, and his offering was shallow.

God desires more from us. He invites us to “simply be ourselves.” What does that say to you today? We can boldly come to his throne just as we are, without one plea, and be forgiven. That level of honesty with God is all that is required to be made right. Where is God calling you to come clean and be real? It’s time to come home.

Looking for a new devotional book? Psalms by the Sea makes a great Christmas present.

Coming Home by Michelle Robertson


Deliverance. What a curious word! Think of the many things that get delivered. Mail gets delivered. Pizzas get delivered. Newspapers get delivered. Babies get delivered. People in jeopardy get delivered. Souls get delivered.

Have you ever asked God to deliver you from something?

It is not uncommon when you find yourself in a place of great distress to ask God to deliver you from it. Illness, abuse, violence, unfulfilling jobs, hateful bosses, out-of-control teenagers….Lord, in your mercy, deliver us. Even atheists pray in foxholes.

I have had many a broken-hearted spouse come to me seeking God’s deliverance from the awful pain of betrayal. Sometimes he delivers them from the marriage, and freedom is restored. Other times he delivers them from their own grudge-holding, and facilitates forgiveness and reconciliation.

One thing is sure: God is our refuge and strength. He is our Deliverer.

Take a look at the beautiful language of Psalm 31, but before you do, ponder this: is there something from which you need to be delivered? Some sin, a destructive habit, an overwhelming loneliness, a feeling of shame, debilitating anger, or a negative personality trait? These things can feel like a fishing net that has wound itself around your ankles. You can’t move. You are trapped.

Think of that net, and imagine that you are at the foot of the cross asking Jesus to cut you loose as you pray this prayer:

Psalm 31

In You, O Lord, I put my trust;
Let me never be ashamed;
Deliver me in Your righteousness.
Bow down Your ear to me,
Deliver me speedily;
Be my rock of refuge,
A fortress of defense to save me.

For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me.
Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength.
Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

I’m sure you recognize verse 5 as the last thing Jesus said as he died on the cross. Jesus was quoting this scripture at the moment that God delivered him, cutting the crucifixion-net free and releasing his spirit as he left the earth.

So too will he do for you, if you trust him to release you from whatever has entangled you.

You don’t have to stay entrapped. You don’t have to be caught in despair. You may have done things that led you straight into a net that was laid out for you, but you don’t have to stay there. All you have to do is ask to be pulled out.

Behold! Your deliverer comes.

Old Net by Michelle Robertson