“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”.
Luke 18:14 MSG
(First things first, check out the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector here)
21st century life sometimes makes me think of that saying: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Whatever it is – a great cup of coffee, a pyjama day, our morning Bible reading – we share everything on social media. It’s almost as if we don’t capture it, it never actually happened.
It can be a real challenge to be content without letting other people know. Often it comes out of insecurity – wanting others to think well of us, even envy us, because we’re not quite sure ourselves.
I left my 9-5 job a year ago to pursue a career in music. While my friends are buying houses and shopping in fancy stores, I’m living back with my parents and bringing packed lunches everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But it’s still so tempting to fill my Instagram feed with romantic shots of Nashville writing sessions, to prove to everyone that I made the right decision and I’m doing okay.
At the end of the day, the opinion that really matters is God’s. And there’s something so freeing about that. Because with Jesus it doesn’t matter whether we’ve got it right or wrong, or how things look on the outside – he wants us to come as we are.
In today’s verse, Jesus is talking about how two people choose to pray. The Pharisee stands up and loudly declares how moral he is compared to everyone else – while the Tax Collector sits quietly in the corner and asks for forgiveness for the things he’s done wrong.
The Pharisee has totally missed the point here. If you read the passage, he doesn’t actually say anything incorrect – he probably has obeyed the rules and ticked all the boxes. But his attitude is all wrong. He might be praying to God, but the only person he’s looking to is himself. His obedience comes from a place of pride, not a servant heart. He’s looking down on other people with a sense of superiority – when in Jesus’ eyes we’re all on the same level.
Someone once told me that we should live for an audience of one. When we take our eyes off what other people think and focus on what God thinks instead, it gives life a whole different perspective. When you’re content with who you are – on your own, in your room, when other people aren’t watching – you get so much more. There’s a security in knowing who you are, that no fame or glory can bring.
That’s not to say that we can’t share things with other people, or use social media. But it’s good practice to keep a few things to ourselves – to test our motives, to make sure we know who we are when other people aren’t watching.
Why not try that today? Go for a walk with God, do some journaling or creative worship – and keep it a secret between you and him.
“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are. It requires you to be who you are” – Brené Brown
Beth Keeping is a singer/songwriter from the UK. You can follow her on Instagram at @bethkeeping and keep up to date with her musical journey.