Reading: Luke 18:9-14
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” [NASB1995®]
Jesus tells us another parable: the well-known story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. You probably have heard it many times.
A religious man prays and brings before God his acts of justice. He comes to present before the altar the bad things he does not do and the good things he does. The tax collector, by contrast, can only present before God a request for mercy.
The key to understanding this parable is at the beginning and end of the passage. To whom does the Lord direct his words? To those who count themselves as righteous and despise others. That is, to those who behave like the Pharisee in this story. We can see in this man some things that should serve as a warning to those who want to live a sincere faith.
First, the focus of his prayer is on himself, in his goodness and righteousness. He is not a sinner. If we approach God with our gaze on ourselves, we are missing the point. Prayer that looks at God can never be self-justifying, but will always contain sincere repentance.
We can also see how the Pharisee compares with others, more sinful than he. He despises those people (even the tax collector who is praying a short distance from him). A prayer that looks at God does not lead you to reject others, but to extend the grace that you received yourself.
The Gospel shows us that we should be like the tax collector, but it is easier for us to behave like the Pharisee.
Remember, we have nothing that we can boast about before God. On the contrary, everything we could consider as a cause of boasting can be a reason for our humiliation, when our misery is considered righteousness before Him who is truly righteous: Jesus.
MEDITATE: How do we approach God in prayer? Seeking HIS face, and knowing Him more? Or trying to convince him of how much we deserve his love? The wonder of the Gospel is precisely that. We didn’t deserve His love, but He loved us. God bless you!
Scripture quotation taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Reading: Luke 18:9-14