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THE PHARISEE AND
(a Tax Collector)
Jesus taught this parable as an example for the right attitude to prayer, using humility for the lesson to his disciples. This parable also dispels any thought that a person may be saved by their own merit. It is aimed at those who take confident pride in their own achievements and self-reliance in their works.
Luke 18:9-14 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody 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 up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, 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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
The Pharisees constituted the most important
Religous group in Jesus' day. They appear in the Gospels as the opponents
of Jesus and controlled the synagogues and exercised great authority over
the general population. They separated themselves to the study and interpreted
the Law of Moses.
The Pharisees were responsible for the transformation of Judaism from a religion of sacrifice to one of law. They saw the way to God as being through obedience to the law. They were willing to adopt new ideas and adapt the law to new situations. The Pharisees accepted all the Old Testament as authoritative. They affirmed the reality of angels and demons. They had a firm belief in life beyond the grave and a resurrection of the body. They were a missionary sect, seeking the conversion of Gentiles. They saw God as concerned with the life of a person. They had little interest in politics. The Pharisees opposed Jesus because He refused to accept the teachings of the oral law.
The Pharisee Jesus spoke about in the narrative, did not really pray at all. He thanked God for what he himself was like and not what God is like. He prayed in pride and self-exaltation. He prayed to himself. He was ignorant of divine righteousness, he did not give thanksgiving for what God had done for him, he had no gratitude, he confessed nothing. The Pharisee dispised the tax-collector in his heart.
The Pharisee's pride in his good deeds blocked out God. He congratulated himself so much that he could not realise that is not the way of God. The Pharisee complimented himself continually as if he should be congratulated by God, believing others to be inferior. The Pharisee pursued righteousness on the principle of works.
Periods for prayer were scheduled daily at The Temple, both the morning and evening were available times for personal prayer. Fasting was not commanded by The Laws of Moses except for once a year on Atonement Day. The Pharisee, a religious group of the Law had added Mondays and Thursdays to the regulations. This was a man-made tradition.
Tithing however is expected by God of His people regardless of the Law, for the giving of firstfruits began in The Garden of Eden and reinforced by Abraham, hundreds of years prior to Moses receiving The Law. The praying Pharisee boasted that he paid beyond what the Mosaic Law required. Tithing is clearly taught by scriptures in the New Testament.
As a publican for the Roman Empire, a tax collector earns his living off his fellow Jews. Although many Jewish people did this, they were called collaborators with Rome and were despised. Publicans were men of position, wealth and strong political influence. Publicans were corrupt and oppressed their own people. Many were refused entrance into the temple synagogues or in a judicial court.
The tax collector by contrast stayed back with his head
low, did not boast of his good deeds but recognised the vast gulf of holiness
and purity between God and mankind and he begged for God's mercy and forgiveness
of his sins and felt his unworthiness before the supreme God. The tax-collector's
plea was sincere, he beat his breast, he stood alone in a humble position,
conscious of his guilt. His attitude was grounded in mankind's status before
an awesome God, and he touched God's heart. However, the tax-collector
felt the conviction of God's sacredness and his own sin. He was the
one who was justified before God, the other was condemned.
The Pharisee's attitude is criticised as a form of arrogance that is unacceptable to God. He had delusions of his own greatness and achievements. The Pharisee was condemned before God in his self-justification, but the tax-collector was justified and forgiven before God.
Jesus wants people to deny selfishness, hautiness, boasting and self-ego to seek humility and meekness, so that God can lift them up, without people trying to do it themselves. Self efforts lead nowhere, yet by meekness, acknowledging God's Sovereignty a person is exalted by God for eternity with his sins forgiven. Jesus taught that the regretful sinner who sincerely seeks God's mercy will receive it. God exalts the humble, and all believers are to be humble before Him.
Without the virtue of humbleness, a Christian is a hypocrite.
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