“Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” Matthew 21:31c-32
These words of Jesus are spoken to the chief priests and elders of the people. They are very direct and condemning words. They are also words spoken so as to awaken the consciences of these religious leaders.
These religious leaders were full of pride and self-righteousness. They held to their own opinions and their opinions were wrong. Their pride kept them from discovering the simple truths that tax collectors and prostitutes were discovering. For that reason, Jesus makes it clear that tax collectors and prostitutes were on the path to holiness whereas these religious leaders were not. This would have been hard for them to accept.
In which category do you find yourself? Sometimes, those who are considered “religious” or “pious” struggle with a similar pride and judgmentalness as the chief priests and elders of Jesus’ time. This is a dangerous sin because it leads a person into much obstinacy. It is for this reason that Jesus was so direct and so harsh. He was attempting to break them free from their obstinacy and prideful ways.
The most important lesson we can take from this passage is to seek the humility, openness and genuineness of the tax collectors and prostitutes. They were praised by our Lord because they could see and accept the honest truth. Sure, they were sinners, but God can forgive sin when we are aware of our sin. If we are not willing to see our sin, then it’s impossible for God’s grace to enter in and heal.
Reflect, today, upon how open you are to seeing the truth of God and, especially, to seeing your own fallen and sinful state. Do not be afraid to humble yourself before God, admitting your faults and failures. Embracing this level of humility will open the doors of God’s mercy toward you.
Lord, help me to always humble myself before You. When pride and self-righteousness enter in, help me to hear Your strong words and to repent of my obstinate ways. I am a sinner, dear Lord. I beg for Your perfect mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.