How Can It Be
Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 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. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “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.’
14 “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.”
Two men went to pray
One stood high and mighty
Shaming the other from his cloak
Thanking God, he’s not like him he spoke
The other man had heard
Yet did not trip into pride
Rather humbling himself
Head down low, “I’m a sinner,” he cried
He sent his prayer above
Knowing he can’t buy this love
I’m not poor in the eyes of man
Yet my heart’s devoid of a purpose or plan
A sinner I fall, no I cannot stand
Before you God so my head’s in my hands
How can it be
Mercy extended and loved though guilty of sin am I
In awe of Thee
I kneel and plea
You say before You I’m free, as I humble myself, have mercy on me”
True prayer is offered humbly to God and God alone. In this parable, a Pharisee and a Tax Collector are at the temple praying. The prayers of these two individuals were vastly different. One was full of proud boastful statements whilst the other was a declaration of one’s own unworthiness. The Pharisee gave himself the glory through his prayer, while the tax collector put aside his pride and fell on his face to confess to the Lord.
Jesus frequently spoke in parables or stories to provide a familiar setting to his audience. In this case, He was specifically speaking to those who were self-righteous. The lesson Jesus is getting across through this parable is that the tax collector went home justified while the Pharisee did not. “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (v. 14)
Here, Jesus emphasizes the importance of humility, especially in prayer. Real, fervent prayer comes from a true, vulnerable intimacy with God. Psalm 139 begins with, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” This verse rings true for all of us, God knows us and loves us more deeply than we can ever imagine. He knows our greatest mistakes; He knows our biggest fears, and He knows what is in our hearts. As much as we may try to hold things back, there is nothing we can keep hidden from the Lord.
“forgive me, have mercy” (v.13)
Although it can be daunting, truthfully confessing our sins to the Lord, as the tax collector did, is one of the most freeing things for a believer. The Tax Collector was not justified by his deeds according to the law, but by his repentant heart. Humbly he approached God, acknowledged his sins, and through his faith in God he called upon the grace and forgiveness that God gives abundantly. When we fall on our knees before the Lord and recognize our sins, confessing them in full humility and faith, we become justified and forgiven in the eyes of the Lord. This is not by anything that we have done but through the power of the Spirit of God.
Christ reminds us that the humble will be exalted in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Pharisee, however, did not humble himself before the Lord. Instead, he was proud and boastful in his prayer. God despises pride. Time and time again the Bible talks about the danger of pride. Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.”
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector were examples of typical attitudes that are common, even in our day and age. One man was full of pride and was self-righteous, and for that he was not justified in his prayer to the Lord. Whereas the other was humble and faithful to the Lord despite the sins he had committed. He saw his sin, asked for mercy, and was justified.
Questions for Reflection
In your life, have you taken the attitude of the tax collector or the Pharisee?
Is there anything that you are withholding from God?
What does it mean to be humble in our current culture?
What does it mean to be justified before the Lord?
I encourage you to pray humbly and honestly before the Lord, seeking His face in all that you say and do.
Biblical Point of View:
The tax collector pleading to God for forgiveness
How Can It Be is a prayer of lament. During this song the
tax collector is on his knees pleading to God to forgive him of the
wrong he has done.
The song progresses in intensity to represent the tax collector coming to a deeper understanding of who He is in light of who God is.
The song is written in a minor key to express the
The first verse and pre-chorus of the song are narratives to describe the setting, the first chorus is the tax collector’s prayer to God. In this chorus he is pleading to God and explaining how even though he has wealth and things which he thought would make him happy, he is not, and finds himself searching for purposes still. The second chorus of the songs represents the tax collector’s revelation of God. In this chorus the tax collector comes to a deeper understanding of the Lord and the love, mercy, and freedom He provides.
How to sing:
This song is to be sung as a cry to God. How Can It Be contains immense feelings of sorrow as one grieves and recognizes his/her sins. At the same time there are moments of repentance and desires to receive the Lord’s forgiveness. This song is a song of lament, a song of repentance, and as you listen to/sing this song pray for a deeper understanding of what Christ has done for you as a sinner and reflect on the state He has brought you out of through His salvation.