Verse of the Day Devotion: Luke 18:11  

“The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” – Luke 18:11   

This verse refers to a Pharisee who entered into the temple to pray.  With him went another man, a tax collector, who also went in to pray at the same time.  You will see here two types of prayers.  One that is acceptable to God, the other which is not. 

First the prayer of the Pharisee. “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” Luke 18:11-12.  Notice the focus points of this prayer.  First, he was thankful that he was not like other people.  This may sound good however, he is only pointing out sins of others.  He may not be a swindler or an adulterer or an unjust individual, however, he is looking at himself as being superior to others.  His focus was on how great he was, especially in comparison to others.  He is not looking at what he has done, but on what he has not done.  He first prays how thankful he is that he is not like anyone else, and then afterwards citing what good he does.  “I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” Luke 18:12. This Pharisee obviously does not believe he has done anything wrong, for all he does is declare how good he is, with no mention of any need of forgiveness.  In fact, notice the first phrase in Luke 18:11, ‘The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself’.  This pretty much tells us how Jesus saw this prayer.

Now, let’s look at the tax collector.  “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” Luke 18:13.  Here is the picture of a man who knows he has failed in many ways.  He felt so bad, he would not even look upward toward heaven, but kept his eyes down in humility.  He was also beating his breast.  This beating of his breast was a picture of excessive grief regarding his sin.  This idea was practiced in most nations regarding a deep, heartfelt despair.  He did not build himself up but recognized his sinfulness and cried out to God for mercy, because he was a sinner.  He did not proclaim any good regarding himself.  He saw a need for forgiveness and mercy from God. 

And how does Jesus see these two?  “I tell you this man (the tax collector) went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14. We must go before Him in humility, not comparing ourselves with others, but comparing ourselves to the one who came to die for our sins; the perfect one Jesus the Christ.  And when we fail to be like Him, then we ask for forgiveness with our whole heart, knowing He will forgive us.  If we only look at men and their failings and are thankful we have not failed as they have, we ignore our own failings, and we see a distorted view of ourselves.  “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.” Galatians 6:3-5. 

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

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