Take care, brothers, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God. Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin. We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end, for it is said: “Oh, that today you would hear his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion.'” Who were those who rebelled when they heard? Was it not all those who came out of Egypt under Moses? With whom was he “provoked for forty years”? Was it not those who had sinned, whose corpses fell in the desert? And to whom did he “swear that they should not enter into his rest,” if not to those who were disobedient? And we see that they could not enter for lack of faith. Therefore, let us be on our guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed. For in fact we have received the good news just as they did. But the word that they heard did not profit them, for they were not united in faith with those who listened. For we who believed enter into (that) rest, just as he has said: “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter into my rest,'” and yet his works were accomplished at the foundation of the world. For he has spoken somewhere about the seventh day in this manner, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works”. Praise be to God always.
He then 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.” This is the Truth. Peace be with you.
The proud man has a hardened heart. When we realize our failings and implore God for His mercy we humble ourselves, rather than letting our hearts be hardened in sin. We are asked not to be perfect, but to be perfect in repentance. Did I sin? I beg God for mercy and for the grace to sin no more. Did I sin again? I pray again. “O God, be merciful to me.” God in turn does more than forgive our sins we go not from a hardened heart to a softened heart, but from a hardened heart to a pure heart, an exalted heart which will see God. God wants to exalt us, and asks only that we humble ourselves and harden not our hearts.