The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Luke 18

He also told this parable to some (L)who trusted (M)in themselves that they were righteous, (N)and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men (O)went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector11 The Pharisee, (P)standing by himself, prayed[a] (Q)thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 (R)I fast twice a week; (S)I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, (T)standing far off, (U)would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but (V)beat his breast, saying, ‘God, (W)be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For (X)everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

There are moments when we can read the word of God and be flatten by what God has said.  Not so much in what He reveals about himself but the sin God the Holy Spirit illuminates within us.  For this reason I believe many avoid “studying to show thyself approved”.    Yes, we do seek and consult scripture when we “need a word” from heaven in the form of encouragement, edification, blessings (earthly) and deliverance (from situations).    Rarely do we study for growth, sanctification and self-examination.  Reason being is that we trust in ourselves more than we will admit to.  We trust more in our deeds getting us close to God and into heaven.  We close our hearts to the pruning power of Holy Scripture because we don’t feel like we need because there is someone worse, always.

We continue to allow our hearts (mind, emotions, and will) to deceive us into believing that we are righteous.  We mask what is in our hearts with the “good” things we do.  In this parable, Jesus pulls back the falsehoods the Pharisees have buried hearts under.  The eyes of the Lord looks deep into our recesses where we think no one will ever look and He sees us.  Jesus told this parable directly to those who trusted in themselves for their righteousness.  The word of God listed these types of people greatest trait of treating others with contempt.

Contempt -
noun

1. the feeling with which a person regards anything consideredmean, vile, or worthless; disdain; scorn.2. the state of being despised; dishonor; disgrace3.the attitude or feeling of a person towards a person or thingthat he considers worthless or despicable; scorn

13 But the tax collector, (T)standing far off, (U)would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but (V)beat his breast, saying, ‘God, (W)be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For (X)everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”After Christ said this he explains how the Pharisee prays; 11 The Pharisee, (P)standing by himself, prayed[a] (Q)thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  How often do we look at others who are “worse” than us, how often do we say at least I’m not like them.  How often do we look down on others who have found themselves crushed by the weight of sin?  We may not pray like that purposely but have we ever regarded someone as worthless?  Have we ever prayed for someone that we thought was a disgrace or despicable?  If so, what was our attitude towards them?  What was in our hearts as we lifted ourselves up to God as being a humble righteous servant and turn to the people we have personal problems with?  If we are not careful our so call compassion or pity will build step stools, latters, podiums, balconies, and even our own thrones seated in heaven to look down on sinners who are just like us.  What makes the Pharisee feel so confident in their righteousness?  The reason is found in the next verse;  12 (R)I fast twice a week; (S)I give tithes of all that I get. The Pharisees took their works and deeds as a means to obtain righteousness.  So the more they did the more righteous they were and became.  Soup kitchens, donations, shaking hands with the less fortunate, building houses for the homeless, creating foundations, sponsoring events, and the like lead the Pharisees to believe in themselves.  They trusted themselves only to be and have righteousness to the point that those who couldn’t do as they did as less than them.  Their deeds caused them to look at all others who were not just like them with contempt.  Their deeds should be motived by love for God and a love for their neighbors.  A love that does not seek attention for the byproduct of having faith in Jesus Christ.

Christ addresses the sinner who is all of us no matter what we think of ourselves, this sinner speaks to God without even looking to heaven.  The sinner is broken and removed from the idea that he is good or deserving of anything.  The sinner knows that the only way he will ever enter heaven, please God or even be answered is through God’s will, grace and mercy.  This sinner knows that all he hopes for lays in the mercies of God.  The sinner came to the throne of mercy and grace as a child approaches his father, 100% dependent upon him.  The sinner came humbly and he exalted by God thus no one and their deeds can ever hope to pull him down.  Look at the landscape of those who proclaim, “be like me or I’m the best” and watch them crumble to the ground.  Everyone who claims themselves untouchable will be touchable by God.

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