November 13 - Luke 18:9-14

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Luke 18:9-14 – Pharisee and the Tax Collector

This parable is directed at the Pharisees in the crowd, and oh how Jesus offended them when he said these words out loud, but today it might be directed toward anyone who is confident of their own righteousness.

I have often been surprised at those who state that they are good people and really don’t sin. Such arrogance is always startling, because it signifies a misunderstanding of what sin truly is. Not only that, but the pride that comes from that single statement is sin unto itself.

Once again, Jesus makes the distinction between the terribly self-righteous Pharisee and the tax collector, who in that day and age, was reviled because of his normal behavior.

The Pharisee wasn't thankful to God for protecting him from sin or circumstances that might lead to sin. He believed that his avoidance of sin was purely of his own doing. Once he professed his avoidance of sins … robbery, adultery, evildoing … or collecting taxes, he decided to list out loud the things he did do – fasting and tithing.  He didn't see himself as a servant doing his duty, but believed he was an overachiever, doing more than the Law required of him. His adherence to the Law far outweighed any need for forgiveness. It was a good thing for God that this person existed on earth.

In stark contrast, the tax collector stood far off from the temple. His humility and shame caused him to stand apart from those who were holy. He didn't deserve to come close. He couldn't look toward heaven because he was so overwhelmed by his own sin. Before he said a word out loud, he proved his contrition.

This man, who was a sinner in everyone’s eyes, left the temple that day justified before God (Luke 18:14).

As Jesus teaches about how to enter the kingdom of God, what we soon discover is that we are unable to do it on our own. Our own humanity is what stops us. It is when we stand before God in true humility and need and ask Him for help, that we take our first step.