C. S. Lewis: The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

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To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

“We were talking about cats and dogs the other day and decided that both have consciences but the dog, being an honest, humble person, always has a bad one, but the cat is a Pharisee and always has a good one. When he sits and stares you out of countenance he is thanking God that he is not as these dogs, or these humans, or even as these other cats!”

C.S. Lewis in his letter to Mary Willis Shelburne on 21 March 1955 on Luke 18:9-14, Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis (New York: Harper One, 2008) 261.

The professor gives us a glimpse into one of the gifts that we get from dogs. In his view (and with apologies to cat lovers), they teach us what humility looks like.

If I want to be the person my dog thinks I am, I too need to reflect humility. This appears as gratitude for the gift of each new day to be enjoyed and shared. Each walk. Each meal. Every morning and evening.

Joy taught me this. Sure, she get into mischief, like we all do. When caught with her head in the trash can because the smells were too enticing, it’s like she admitted she was guilty.

She exhibited the humility of the tax collector. She knew she had done wrong, and with her face, admitted it. The trash can lid was one of those that came off like a ring around her neck. There was no hiding where she had been.

God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Thanks God, for the way Joy modeled this posture. When we humble ourselves like a dog, we too become “man’s best friend.” God, have mercy on me, a sinner.