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The Pharisee And The
Tax Collector


    PART VI: THE PARABLES ON PRAYER

             CHAPTER 26
 
 
 

                              Introduction

    Whereas  the  previous  two parables  taught  persistence,
         the  Parable  of  the  Pharisee and the Tax Collector teaches
         honesty, humility and sincerity.  Jesus knew that some people
         trusted  in  their  own  "self-righteousness"  and considered
         themselves better than others.  This precipitated the Parable
         of  the  Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  It is found only in
         Luke 18:9-14.
 

The Story
                         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 [to] 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." (Luke
                   18:9-14, New International Version).

              There were two major groups of Jewish leaders in Jesus'
         time: the Pharisees and the Saducees.    The  Pharisees  were
         conservative in their beliefs--they believed that the  Jewish
         Scripture  was  the  Word  of  God.    They  believed  in the
         existence  of   angels,   the   supernatural   and   in   the
         resurrection.  The Saducees were "liberal" in their beliefs--
         they did not believe in the resurrection.

             The Pharisees are mentioned about 100 times in  the  New
         Testament.    The  word  "Pharisee" means "separatist".  They
         were strict legalists who kept not only the Law of Moses  but
         also a host of man-made regulations.  They also taught in the
         local synagogues.  Many were hypocrites during  the  time  of
         Jesus.  (Turnbull,  Gen. ed., PROCLAIMING  THE NEW TESTAMENT,
         THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, by Ralph Earle, p. 81).    However,  some
         were sincere people such as Paul and Nicodemus.

             Tax collectors were looked down on  by  Jewish  society.
         They  were  considered  outcasts because they collected taxes
         for the Roman government.  They received  a  portion  of  the
         taxes   that   they   collected   and   sometimes  they  were
         extortionists, that is, they collected  too  much  money  and
         stuffed more than their share into their own pockets.

             The original Greek text states that the Pharisee  prayed
         "to  himself."    (Turnbull,  Gen.  ed., PROCLAIMING  THE NEW
         TESTAMENT, THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, by Ralph Earle, p.  82).    In
         Palestine, the devout prayed three times a day: at 9:00 a.m.,
         at 12:00 m., and at 3:00 p.m.  It was supposed to  be  better
         to  pray  in  the temple. (Barclay, DAILY STUDY BIBLE SERIES,
         LUKE, pp. 147 ff.? ).  He then began to compare his  behavior
         with other people who did not measure up to his standard.  He
         mentioned that he fasted twice a week.  The law only required
         a  fast  one  day  a  year--the  Day  of Atonement (Leviticus
         16:29).  By the time of Zechariah, Jews observed  four  fasts
         per  year.    However,  during the time of Jesus, the zealous
         Pharisees  fasted  every  Thursday  and  Monday,  since  they
         believed  Moses  ascended  and descended Mount Sinai on those
         days.  (Carr,  CAMBRIDGE  GREEK  TESTAMENT  FOR  SCHOOLS  AND
         COLLEGES,  LUKE,  by  F.  W.  Farrar,  p. 331).  THE PHARISEE
         TRUSTED IN HIMSELF AND HIS OWN "RIGHTEOUSNESS."

             The tax collector knew that he was a sinner and admitted
         it.  He cried out to God for mercy.

            Jesus proclaimed that the tax collector was justified by
         God and the Pharisee was not justified.

                   The Interpretation
            The Pharisee made his basic  mistake  when  he  compared
         himself  with  other  people.   The standard by which we must
         compare ourselves is the absolute holiness of God.    We  all
         fall  short  of  his glory.  That is why God must provide our
         righteousness.  Jeremiah prophesied the coming Messiah  whose
         death would provide our righteousness:

                     "The days are coming," declares the
                                     Lord,
                       "when I will raise up to David a
                               righteous Branch.
                         a King who will reign wisely
                       and do what is just and right in
                                   the land.
                        In his days Judah will be saved
                   and Israel will live in safety.  This is
                     the name by which he will be called:
                          The Lord Our Righteousness.
                               (Jeremiah 23:5-6)
                         (New International Version).

             The position of the Pharisee and all others like him  is
         a  very  arrogant  one.    None  of us can be as holy as God.
         Unfortunately, many religious people feel that  they  are  ok
         with God if they obey  a  list  of  human  rules  and do good
         deeds.

             The  tax collector  knew  that  he  had  done  wrong and
         therefore needed  to  humble  himself  and  repent.    Isaiah
         teaches,
                      For this is what the high and lofty
                                  One says--
                       he who lives forever, whose name
                                   is holy:
                       "I live in a high and holy place,
                       but also with him who is contrite
                             and lowly in spirit,
                       to revive the spirit of the lowly
                        and to revive the heart of the
                                   contrite.
                                (Isaiah 57:15)
                         (New International Version).

            He placed his trust in God rather than himself.    His  faith
         was manifest when he turned to God and asked for forgiveness.
         God justified him.   (Justification  and  righteousness  come
         from  the  same  Greek  root word that means to be made right
         with God).

             The  Apostle Paul  was  a  Pharisee  who  had  kept  the
         external  requirements  of  the  Mosaic  Law.    He  had  not
         recognized  that  Jesus  was  the  Messiah and had gone about
         trying to justify himself before God by keeping the  Law  and
         doing good deeds.  When he came to the realization that Jesus
         had died for him, and that he must trust in Christ to receive
         the  imputed  righteousness  of  Christ, he was justified and
         finally found peace with God.  Paul explains justification by
         faith,   in   the   book   of   Romans.     (See  Chapter  I,
         "Justification," in my book HOW TO  RAISE  YOUR  SELF-ESTEEM:
         PROVEN  BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES, for a more thorough treatment on
         justification).

              Notice that one is either justified by God or not. There
         is no middle ground.  There  are no degrees of justification.
         (Trench, NOTES ON THE PARABLES OF OUR LORD, p. 183).
 
 

                               Central Truth

                 GOD REQUIRES  THAT WE HUMBLE OURSELVES
                      AND TRUST IN HIM FOR OUR JUSTIFICATON. 
 
 
                                 Conclusion

            None of us can justify ourselves by self-effort.   Human
         reason  would  tell us that we can save ourselves.  Actually,
         autosoteric ("self-salvation") religions engender  pride  and
         take  us  further from God.  Let us walk humbly with the Lord
         and seek to bring others to him.  END