Lenten Devotional March 2, 2022


Luke 18:9-14

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."


Dr. Wendy Farone ’21, MAPS Student

There is an old Mac Davis song called It’s Hard to be Humble that begins, “Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” This satirical song points out how quickly we determine our place as above that of others. At times we believe that the blessings we have received are of our own making, due to our brilliance and good works.

In today’s parable, Jesus teaches about the human condition of self-righteousness. The Pharisee is learned, of high status, and follows the rules of fasting and tithing. The Pharisee prays to God, not for his undeserved gifts, but in thanks that he isn’t one of “those people.” One can just envision his upturned nose and eyes scanning others over his robed shoulder. It is as if he is saying, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way like me.”

The tax collector also stood before the altar in prayer. In contrast to the Pharisee’s haughty assuredness, the tax collector “would not even look up to heaven” (18:13). He stood away from the others because he felt unworthy before God. He displayed his repentant heart as he cried, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” hoping to be restored to righteousness.

The twist at the end of Jesus’ lesson is that the tax collector who recognized his sinful nature and turned to God for mercy was the one exalted! The Pharisee found no need to repent since he was “perfect.”

Martin Luther wrote about believers not focusing on themselves but rather, by faith, on Christ and their neighbors. We are far from perfect in every way—and that is exactly why we seek the Lord’s mercy.


Good and gracious God, thank you for your steadfast mercy. Though I fail, I thank you for your forgiveness and guidance as I try again and again to be humble. I am reminded in your word to look toward you and not within myself. Amen.

About Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Rooted in the Reformed tradition, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is committed to the formation of women and men for theologically reflective ministry and to scholarship in service to the global Church of Jesus Christ.

Become a Student

Certificate Programs

Special Programs


In addition to their on-campus duties, our faculty are experts in their fields and are available to preach and teach. Learn more about their topics of research and writing and invite them to present at your congregation or gathering.


The Seminary hosts a wide range of events—many of them free!—on topics of faith including church planting, mission, vocation, spiritual formation, pastoral care and counseling, archaeology, and many more. Visit our calendar often for a listing of upcoming events.

Visit PTS

Interested in the Seminary? Come visit us!

Stay in Touch with PTS

Sign-up to receive the Seminary's newsletters: Seminary News (monthly), Center for Adaptive and Innovative Ministry (monthly), Continuing Education (monthly), World Mission Initiative (monthly), Metro-Urban Institute (quarterly), and Kelso Museum. Alums, there's also one for you!