In Jesus’ Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the Pharisee exhibits all the good respectable qualities. The Tax Collector is just the opposite, both a traitor to his people and a greedy cheat who takes more than he is due. But God accepts the prayer of the Tax Collector and not that of the Pharisee. Why? Because the Pharisee is busy praising his own goodness and is concerned about his opinion of himself. The Tax Collector, knowing what sort of person he is, asks God for mercy and forgiveness.
In the reading from 2 Timothy, St. Paul also mentions some of his sufferings and declares, “I have kept the faith.” But it’s clear that he knows that it’s only through the strength that God provided that he was able to do this, not his own strength.
Of course, we’re called to reject sin, but these readings can remind us that Jesus died to make us holy, not respectable, and he taught, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Our stewardship should be a grateful response to God’s generosity, not an attempt to impress others – or ourselves.