A PARABLE OF TWO PRAY-ERS
PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH
LUKE 18:9-14 23 OCTOBER 2022
READ: LUKE 18:9-14
Jesus begins here to present a statement that is wide in scope and does not target any particular group.
He simply addresses “some who were confident of themselves”.
Now, many of the Pharisees possessed a self-righteous attitude and looked down on anyone they felt was beneath them both religiously and in their personal lives. This, of course, did not describe all Pharisees.
Two examples of Pharisees who would not fit in that category would be Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.
And Luke recognizes that fact when he says, “many of the Pharisees possessed a self-righteous attitude”.
In this parable, Jesus shows us a picture of the attitude of one particular Pharisee who shows himself with the attitude that he was greater that all the people around him as he observed the designated hour of prayer.
Those designated hours would have been either 9 am or 3 pm as required by the Law.
It is interesting to note that he stands in the outer court of the temple to pray in order that the crowds would hear his self-righteous prayer.
We can examine his prayer and see three elements of the prayer.
The prayer is focused on him.
He says, “I” four times.
There is no admission of sin and so, no plea for forgiveness.
But he makes sure God knows that he is not like other men and names the sins of other men, but no confession of his own sin.
He boasts of his strict keeping of the Law.
Now, really, with that kind of information, God will surely see his great loyalty and be blessed to have such a fine example of a child, devoted to Him.
The Law required one public day of fasting – Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. But this fellow boasts that he fasts twice a week. My – what a good boy am I!
The Pharisees established Monday and Thursday as days of fasting during which they offered prayers for their nation.
Not only does this Pharisee fast more than required, but he also boasts that he gives a tithe of ALL that he gets.
Even on anything which had already been tithed.
As he completes his prayer the Pharisee notices this tax collector near him in the temple court. He thanks God that he is not like other men, especially this tax collector. By the way, tax collectors were the scum of the earth.
The Pharisee, of course, sees this tax collector as a traitor, a scoundrel. How dare he come into the temple area.
A tax collector would not dare to come into the temple, but as a Jew, he is allowed access to the temple's outer court and may go there during the hour of prayer in the morning and in the afternoon. This gives him a place to pray away from others who come to the temple to pray.
Why would the tax collector want to come to the temple to pray?
It is likely had heard the Word of God.
Maybe he even had heard Jesus’ preaching. His conscience was troubling him, and he needs spiritual help.
Unlike the Pharisee, this tax collector was burdened by his own unworthiness in the sight of God and man.
He doesn’t even dare to look up heaven-ward or to lift his hands in prayer. He is ashamed of the sin he has committed against God and against his fellow man.
The Romans employed him to collect taxes. And in doing so he had defrauded the people, who see him as a robber and a thief. So, naturally, the Pharisees saw him as a sinner who has broken God’s Law.
Here is the extent of the tax collector’s sin:
According to the Levitical Law (Leviticus 6:2-5), he must pay back in full and add 1/5 of the value of what he has taken and give it to the owner on the day he presents his guilt offering.
He could not approach the high priest. So, he stands at a distance and has nowhere else to go other than to God in prayer.
The people around see and hear the prayer of this Pharisee and consider him a worthy saint who diligently keeps the Law of God. They would expect God to hear and answer his prayer, but certainly not the prayer of the tax collector, a sinner.
But God – hears both prayers. And He hears the prayers and looks at the heart of the ones praying.
The prayer of the Pharisee is self-sufficient, and the prayer of the tax collector is one without self-reliance.
The Pharisee is justified in his own eyes and believes he does not need God’s mercy.
The tax collector, however, recognizes his sin and addresses God by using the first line of Psalm 51, the penitential Psalm of David which says, “Have mercy of me, O God (Psalm 51:1).
His attitude toward God was right. He was justified before God because he completely relied upon God and His mercy. His simple trust allowed him to rely upon God.
The Pharisee did not trust in God. He trusted in himself. The tax collector went home from the temple forgiven.
The Pharisee went home the way he came – as a sinner.
Jesus’ final words in this Parable say this: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
This Parable is not limited to people in the time when Jesus walked on the earth. There are those today who qualify as Pharisees and as Tax Collectors.
If we look into the mirror of God’s Word, using it as our guide, we might see a Pharisee or a tax collector looking back at us.
We must become the tax collector in the Church today. We do that by seeing in ourselves the lack of humility, and a feeling of pride in our position with God.
Remember, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Before we come in belief and repentance we must admit and say that “I am a sinner.”
We must admit our unworthiness in the sight of God and ask for mercy, recognizing Him as Lord, the Son of God, repent of our sins and complete the beginning of our salvation through the contact of Jesus’ blood in baptism. Then we will be raised to begin a new life in Christ.