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.”
This parable is an interesting parallel between one of the most highly respected and one of the most despised people of their day. From the people’s perspective the Pharisee was believed to be holy and righteous, a man of God. The tax collector would have been seen as one of the lowest in their society and the furthest from God. They viewed these men from the worldly point of view and not from God’s. God views our heart and wants a humble heart.
The Pharisee compared himself to other men and was pleased that he was better than the others. He fasted more than what was required and tithed. Because of this he felt superior to them. He also believed he had God’s salvation because of his devotion and obedience. He told God what he had done for him but did not ask for God’s forgiveness of his sin. Even though he did good things and was obedient his sin was still with him. Only belief in Jesus can remove our sin and our separation from God. His pride did not allow him to see his need for God.
The tax collector recognized his hopeless situation and appealed to God’s mercy to save him. He knew he was sinful and asked God for forgiveness and mercy. He compared himself to God, not man, and realized he was sinful. What we do is important but it cannot save us. Only belief in Jesus as God’s Son and His death on the cross for our sins can save us. When we sincerely come to Jesus we are not separated from God any more.
The tax collected left justified and declared righteous before God. The Pharisee had justified himself before the people but had not asked God for his salvation. We cannot do anything to save ourselves. After we are saved we obey God’s rules and serve him to honor him but they add nothing to our salvation. God’s salvation and the promise of eternal life are given freely to all who believe.
The challenge to me in this parable is not to become prideful like the Pharisee. I need to guard myself and remain humble and reliant on God. He allows me to work for him and gives my life purpose. He provides all I need to do the work he has given me to do. I need to be careful that what I start out doing to honor God does not make me prideful or feel more important than others. I need to remember that by God’s standard I am only justified by faith in Jesus and he provides my salvation free of charge. My service is to bring him honor and glory and to show my gratefulness for my salvation he provided. He is worthy to be served with excellence. He is worthy of all the love, glory, praise, and adoration I can give him.
Who is your faith in?
Is it in yourself and your own good works or is it in Jesus, the only one who can forgive our sins and justify us before God?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your salvation. Forgive me, Lord, for my prideful thoughts. Help me to rely on you for everything and to always point people to you in all I do and say. Thank you for loving and forgiving me and for providing my salvation through Jesus. In Jesus Name I pray,