The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Lenten Devotions

A Walk through the Book of Luke

March 31, 2023

Luke 18:9-14

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

“Rich or poor, greaser or jock. All are welcome.”

When I attended high school in the late 1960s, groups of students were identified by particular names. We still had the “Greasers” (Think of Danny Zuko in the movie Grease). Then, there were the jocks, who were athletes, and I guess you could also put the cheerleaders in that category too.

There was also a group that included all the really smart kids. I don’t recall what their tag was, but I’ll just call them the Brainiacs. And then there was me; I guess you would have called me a nerd.

Today we still have “Class,” grouping, and rankings in our society. There is low income or people experiencing poverty. Then there is a group I would be a part of, the middle class. And, of course, there are the people in the upper one percent of our society. They are called the upper class.

Most of these class determinations are made by how much money people make, their jobs, and their lifestyle.

In today’s parable, we will see two different classes represented by two men as they pray.

*************************The Point***********************

Jesus’ parable tells about a most likely wealthy Pharisee and a tax collector who was generally despised and looked down upon.

“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

Did you notice the difference between the two prayers in the parable? The Pharisee prayed about how great he was. He touted to God how large his weekly tithe was and how he fasted twice weekly. (It makes you wonder why he even bothered praying because his prayer was all about himself.)

On the other hand, the tax collector stood far away from the holy place in the temple. He bowed his head and didn’t raise his hands to the Lord as the Pharisee did. Instead, he confessed his sinfulness and asked God to have mercy on him.

“Jesus renders His verdict: the tax collector rather than the Pharisee is justified before God.” (People’s Bible Commentary, Luke, Victor H. Prange, Pp. 198.)

The Pharisee was far from being right with God. All he did in his prayer was to point out his good points and how great he was compared to the tax collector.

In God’s judgment, the tax collector is the one who is right with God. Why? Because of his confession and his faith that God was a merciful God.

“God reverses human thinking and evaluation: God humbles the exalted and exalts the humble. This is God’s kind of justice.” (Peoples Bible Commentary, Luke, Victor H. Prange, Pp. 198)

Rich, poor, or middle class. Greaser or Jock. It doesn’t matter what or who you are, as long as you have faith in Jesus and repent of your sins. Only then are you righteous in the eyes of God. Not because of what you do but because of what He did and accomplished. He (God) sent His Son Jesus to live on earth and die on the cross for our sins.

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