Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 18:9 

“And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:” – Luke 18:9

Today we will look at the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  Here is this parable as found in Luke’s gospel.

And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. But the tax-gatherer, 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! I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14.

This parable says a lot regarding spiritual truth and what is expected from us as true followers of Christ.  It starts by stating why He told this parable.  “And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt.” Luke 18:9. Jesus noticed in the Temple those who were the Pharisees and Jewish leaders who thought their own goodness was so great it could not fail to make them acceptable to God. They held rigorously to the ceremonies and traditions laid out in the law, making a public show of their religiosity, all to be seen by other men, many of whom they despised as being beneath them. The Pharisee in the story is the picture of one who is self-justifying. Also, when you examine his prayer you see no elements of confession. He does not ask forgiveness for his sins, probably because he believes he has nothing to confess. Also, the fact there is no glorification of God makes His prayer all about him. Even the thanks he does offer is designed to exalt himself and place himself above others whom he treats with disgust. Going to the temple to pray with the condition of his heart as it was, he might as well have stayed home. Such a prayer is not heard by God.

Now, contrary to the Pharisee who went to the temple to be self-congratulatory, the tax collector stood at a distance, perhaps in an outer room, but certainly far from the Pharisee who would have been offended by the closeness of this man. Tax collectors, because of their association with the hated Romans, were seen as traitors to Israel and were loathed and treated as outcasts. His posture spoke of his unworthiness before God. He was unable to even lift his eyes to heaven because of the burden of his guilt and shame which weighed heavily upon him.  Overcome by his transgressions, he beats his breast in sorrow and repentance and appeals to God for mercy. The prayer he speaks is the very one God was waiting to hear, and his attitude is exactly what God wants from all who come to Him.

Now, the tax collector had the attitude that God called for in His sermon on the mount.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3.  Being ‘poor in spirit’ means that we admit we have nothing to offer God to atone for our sins.  We come to Him empty, bankrupt, as someone having nothing to give for our sins.  The tax collector recognized his sinful condition and seeks the only thing that can bridge the gap between himself and God. He cries out to Him, “Have mercy on me.”

Jesus is telling them that if we are truly broken-hearted regarding our sin, we can be assured of our forgiveness because of God’s great grace and mercy.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.  No amount of good works, loving our neighbor, giving our tithes, or church attendance will make a difference regarding our sins for these are not what will blot them out and give us the ability to stand before a holy God.  This is why God sent Jesus to die on the cross. His death is the only means we have that is able to cleanse us and make us acceptable to God.

Also, we must not make the mistake of comparing ourselves with others and gaining confidence from what we see through that comparison. In fact, Jesus specifically warns us against this attitude at the beginning of the parable. “And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt:” Luke 18:9. When we try to justify ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, we naturally end up despising them, and how is this “loving our neighbor as ourselves”. Our standard for comparison is God Himself, and we all fall short of His glory. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23.

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

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