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A Parable in Poetry (Matthew DelValle)

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” ~ Luke 18:9-14


A Parable in Poetry – by Matthew DelValle


Our Master once told a story

About two men: A Pharisee
Who kept the law and did what’s right
But looked on other folks with spite,
Such as the “other man” who would
Collect the tax from bad and good,
But would not lift his eyes to God.
Instead, he beat upon his bod
And cried, “Upon my soul, Lord, pin
Your mercy, for I’m great with sin.”
One went to his home justified;
The other left condemned to die.

This is the tale that Jesus told
Of which I now seek to unfold.

Why would just one receive God’s grace?
Did not the other plead his case?
“I am not like these other men;
I keep commandments one through ten!
I fast from food two times a week;
I give a tenth of all I reap.”
He even gave the Lord his thanks:
“I thank you, God, to be quite frank,
That I am not like other men.
But for your grace go I! Amen.”
Surely, a man as just as he
The Lord would look upon and free!
And yet, this man God did not save;
Only the other God forgave.
In one key place he was amiss.
The crucial truth he missed was this:
The one whom God declares as just
Is one who has the proper trust.

To understand this lesson well,
An error we must first dispel.
This man whom God did not forgive
Did not err in trying to live
A life of righteousness produced
By strength that was not God-induced.
Clearly, he saw his life of good
As from God’s hand. He understood
That righteousness is from our God,
And not a man who walks this sod
Can be perfect all on his own.
This was a truth that was well known,
For this man knew that God was key.
That’s why he said, “God, I thank Thee
That I am not like other men.
But for your grace go I! Amen.”
No, this man knew he needed grace;
That is not where he lost his place.

Why then the four and tragic words
That he thought would never be heard?
“Rather than the other,” Christ said,
“I justify this man instead.”
He justified the sinful man,
And not the Pharisee, whose plan
Of being right with God by law
And worshiping with fear and awe
Had come to be the way of death,
And not the way of life and breath.
Despite his thanking God for grace,
He still fell short at one key place:

This one man was not justified
Because he held onto his pride.

To whom did Christ direct this tale?
What truth did He wish to unveil?
He spoke to those who placed their pride,
Not in our Lord, Christ crucified,
But in their own righteous efforts.
Although God’s grace they did assert
And saw their good as from God’s hand,
They still trusted in good in man.
That was this man’s biggest mistake.
We must not ever, ever stake
Our right standing before the Lord
On what is inherently stored
Within.Even a God-produced
Righteousness is of zero use
When brought into God’s court of law.
It’s still our works, and therefore flawed.
Our righteous deeds are filthy rags;
Our Lord hates them; they make Him gag.
We have no merit of our own.
Even that which by grace is sown,
Is not enough to be perfect.
This way to God we must reject.
We cannot come to God in pride,
Or we’ll never be justified.
We must keep the commandments, yes,
And keep them all! Nevertheless,
Our own good deeds we must forsake
And something else a hold of take,
If we would be declared as just.
We must possess the proper trust.

So now I ask: What is this trust?
Who is the one God declares just?
If we must forsake good in us,
Then clearly, we may conclude thus:
What we need most is to possess
Somebody else’s righteousness.
Paul said it best in Romans four:
“Now to the one who does not pour
His life out as one with a job
But trusts our ever gracious God,
His faith counts as his righteousness.”
This is a point that I must stress:
God does not look for employees,
Apprentices, or internees.
Instead,He seeks those who believe
In His Son, and to Him do cleave.
All trust in ourselves we must shirk
And by faith connect with Christ’s work.

What is this work? Christ came to earth
As God in flesh, and from His birth
He lived completely without flaw,
And thus fulfilled God’s holy law.
Then He was lifted up to die,
And “It is finished” was His cry.
He became sin, who knew no sin,
That righteousness would be in Him.
Three days later, Jesus was raised;
Now all who love Him give Him praise.

By faith in Christ—His life, His scars—
All that He is and has is ours.
If not for Christ, we would be damned;
Instead, our sin went on the Lamb
Who for our sake, and God’s glory,
Was slain. That’s the gospel story.
Our hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Through faith in Him He calls us friends.

You see, my dear friends, in the end,
Justification is by deeds.
But whose good deeds? The deeds we need
Are not our own, but those of Christ.
Only his righteous works suffice
To not be looked at and reviled,
But looked at as a righteous child.
By faith our God sees us perfect
Because in Christ’s garment we’re decked—
The cloak of righteousness that dons
All believers. This is no con
Or legal fiction, as some say,
But is the gospel, clear as day.

The one whom God declares as just
Is one who has the proper trust.
We must not look to what’s in us,
But look alone to Christ Jesus.
If we trust partly in his death,
But still trust in our life and breath
Than Jesus’ glory is but half,
And He’s no better than a calf.
But as it is He dies and lives
So that His Father may forgive
All those who repent of their sin
And by faith place their trust in Him.

The devil will try to deceive.
He’ll try to get us to believe:
“You have to have your own merit.
Righteousness must be inherent.
Your evil deeds you can’t undo.
You’re too wicked; God can’t love you.
With your next sin you’re going to lose
Your righteousness.” He will accuse
Us in this way. What shall we say
In order to drive doubt away?
“No one can bring a charge of guilt
Because the blood of Christ was spilt.
No matter how much we may fail,
All the elect in Christ prevail.
Our God is always on our side;
Forever we are justified!
One day we’ll see Him face to face,
And it’s all because of His grace.
So we’ll sing the old, old story;
To God alone be all glory.”

My friends, this is the greatest news:
In Christ alone we cannot lose.