The Pharisee & Tax Collector
​​*​As you may know, "Pharisee" is a word we now use to denote self-righteous arrogance. But in Jesus day, Pharisees were respectable and devout. They believed in God, the resurrection, the importance of prayer, worship, and the authority of the Bible -- all those things that "Good Christians" would approve of today. 

But we can't help it: like God in the story -- we do not like this Pharisee. Feeling a need to justify that dislike, we might call him proud. Jesus doesn’t give us any reason to think so. But in verse 9, Luke tells us that Jesus told this story to those "who were confident in their own righteousness and who looked down on other people"

​Whew! That’s the worst, isn’t it? That’s the problem with the church! I really can’t stand people like that, can you? Thank God I’m not like that… Oh my! Did you see what I just did? Did you see how natural it was? I was simply being like the Pharisee! In all of us there is a deep capacity for self-righteousness and self-justification. When we exercise it, we are simply demonstrating our confidence in our own righteousness and looking down on others. 
   Luke 18:10-14 Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. 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 all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

But what about the other man? Tax collectors were known for collaborating with the Romans to extort money from their countrymen -- notorious for their greed, their injustice, their treachery, and their thievery. And this tax collector isn't claiming anything different -- he comes to God as a sinner in need of mercy.

So that’s it: we have been presented with two men. One is moral, the other immoral. One is respectable, the other unrespectable. One is a religious leader, the other a religious outcast. One is convinced he's righteous… but it is the other who is granted standing with God. The bad man is accepted, the good man is not. How is this possible?


Jesus provides an explanation: “
those who exalt themselves will be humbled; those who humble themselves will be exalted.
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*my humble introduction to an amazing explanation of this parable by Neil Shenvi