Are You Like The Pharisee or Tax Collector?

The Parables of Jesus

March 30, 2022

Are you like the Pharisee or Tax Collector?

Galatians 5:19-26, Luke 18:9-14, Matthew 5:5

One of my favorite passages is from Galatians 5. Paul does an outstanding job of telling the people of Galatia and us how as followers of Christ, how we should live.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking, and envying each other.” Galatians 5:22-26

The passage is pretty straightforward. If we are filled by the Holy Spirit and walking the path that has been chosen for us, this is how we should live.

Paul also gives us the flip side of the Fruit of the Spirit.

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21

Once again, this passage is pretty straightforward, isn’t it? If this is the lifestyle you choose, then the Kingdom of heaven is out of your reach.

What kind of person has the traits of the Fruit of the Spirit. I believe we need to look no further than the Beatitudes. Perhaps all of the Beatitudes are encompassed somewhat in the Fruit of the Spirit. But the one that shouts out to me is:

“Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

I looked up words synonymous with the word meek. I found words like: kind, gentle, calm, and peace. Take a look back at the Fruit of the Spirit. All of those words are there.

It’s challenging to be a Christian because God asks us to be gentle and patient and not be demanding or boisterous.

And after a rather long introduction, those words bring us to today’s Parable.

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The Story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is about how we should present ourselves when we pray. It is also about what type of person we want to present to God.

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this Parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

 “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.’

 “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.” Luke 18:9-14

Jesus tells the story of two people who pray at the temple. First, we hear from the Pharisee as he raises his hands to heaven and draws attention to himself. What he’s saying is,

“Thanks for making me so perfect, God; I do everything right. I give lots of money to the church, follow all of your rules, and am not like everyone else. I’m better! Amen.”

If you think about it, did the Pharisee even pray? No, he didn’t. All he did was tell God how great of a person he was. The Pharisee seems to think that God needs him more than he needs God.

Now it’s the Tax collectors’ turn. Something you might want to remember. Not unlike today, tax collectors were not liked; you might say they were despised. First of all, they collected taxes for the Romans. Secondly, they were known for skimming money off the top and overcharging on taxes for their own benefit.

The Tax Collector in Jesus’ Parable meekly stood off to the side. But this tax collector was different. He didn’t stand in front of everyone to pray because he didn’t want to talk to everyone; he wanted to talk to God. So he didn’t raise his hands to heaven to make a big show of his prayer. Instead, he was humble before God, asking for mercy.

He simply bowed his head and whispered, “God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinful man.” The tax collector prayed from the heart.

 God heard his prayer and loved that tax collector even though he was a sinner. Therefore, we need to present ourselves before The Lord as the Tax Collector did. We should always take prayer seriously because God takes prayer seriously; we should go before Him humbly (meek and respectfully) when we pray.

Prayer isn’t about how great we are; it’s about how wonderful, loving, and forgiving God is!

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving us so much you were willing to die on the cross for our sins. Help us take our prayer time seriously, always be humble before you, and ask for forgiveness of our sins. Amen

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