Jesus spoke the parable in Luke 18:9-13 because there were people who trusted in their own righteousness and despised others. I found myself thinking about this parable and decided to study it. The parable is about two men–a Pharisee and a tax collector. First, let’s take a look at each of these men.
– He prayed with himself
– He thanks God for not being like other men such as extortioners, unjust, adulterers or like the tax collector
– He fasts twice a week
– He gives tithes of all that he owned
The Tax Collector
– He stood some distance away
– He would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven
– He beat his breast
– He prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner”
The Pharisee’s prayer was not so much a prayer as it was a self-promotion. He was self-righteous. He did not acknowledge that he was a sinner. He felt that fasting twice a week and paying tithes made him righteous. He puffed himself up. His heart was not with God. His pride did not allow any room for God. He made himself big, thus diminishing God in his eyes. There was no reverence. He exalted himself instead of God. He was boasting not praying.
Instead of thanking God for His mercy, he looked down on others, thanking God that he was not like them. His prayer is not the kind of prayer that would please God. How could God accept a prayer from someone who shows not love or compassion for others? This Pharisee condemned others because they were different. What he failed to understand was that God loved these people.
When tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and His disciples, the Pharisees wondered why He would do something like that. Jesus said to them, “Those who are well have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:10-13).
According to Paul we are all sinners. In Romans 3:23, he says, “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Like the rest of us, this Pharisee was a sinner who needed a Savior.
The tax collector could not even raise his eyes to heaven. He was so humble. He showed total reverence to God. He stood afar as if he felt unworthy to approach or be near the throne of mercy. He beat his chest as he begged God to be merciful to him. He acknowledged that he was a sinner. His prayer God accepted. It was done in humility and with a contrite spirit. He gave himself to God. He, not the Pharisee, went to his house justified.
Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.”
Psalm 138:6 says “Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar. The Pharisee’s self-righteousness and pride separated him from God.
James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” God resisted the Pharisee.
God gave grace to the tax collector who was humble. Jesus said that the tax collector went home justified. I looked up the word “justified” in Strong’s Concordance and came up with the following definition: to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous or such as he ought to be.
So, the Pharisee left the temple the same way he went in–a proud, self-righteous and unrepentant sinner. The tax collector went into the temple a humble, repentant sinner and left as a man whom God declared righteous. He was vindicated.