Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The theologian Karl Barth speaks to the needed humbleness in acknowledging our character defects before God, demonstrated by the tax collector in Matthew’s Gospel reading, as the pathway to exultation to experience the kingdom of God. For the addict receiving assistance with our character defects by working the steps with a sponsor is a pathway to recovery and the kingdom of God. Barth is quoted as follows on the topic:
“No cultural education, no art, no evolutionary development helps us beyond our sins. We must receive assistance from the ground up. Then the steep walls of our security are broken to bits, and we are forced to become humble, poor, and pleading. Thus we are driven more and more to surrender and give up all that we have, surrender and give up those things which we formerly used to protect and defend and hold to ourselves against the voice of the Resurrection’s truth.” ~Karl Barth, theologian