Jesus came across people who worked so hard at being good that it was virtually a full time job, and he was not impressed.
He told a story about a man whose prayers in the temple consisted of little more than a checklist of all his good points, followed by gratitude that he was so much better than the trash around him.
Meanwhile one of the supposed ‘trash’ was also in the temple, at the back, but all he could think of was how bad he had been and how much he needed to be forgiven.
Jesus’ listeners would have recognised both characters as common place at the time and probably accepted them as a fact of life, but he told them that it was the second man who had got it right, not the first.
For the second man, praying was like looking through a window into sunlight, dazzling but illuminating; for the first man praying was like looking in a mirror, all familiar but telling you nothing about what is beyond.
The truth in the story is, of course, a warning that we too should never compare ourselves with anyone, either the one type or the other, lest we fall into the same trap as the first. Better to draw back the curtain and be honest with ourselves.
Spalding Quaker Meeting