November 6, 2017
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
It’s a short parable that Jesus spoke in Luke 18:10 through 14, but what a lesson our Lord taught!
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a
tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed with himself, “God, I thank
You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or
even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I pos-
sess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise
his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me a
sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than
The sect of Jewish Pharisees arose about two centuries before Christ. They zealously guarded the Law handed down to Moses and recorded in the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible. They not only guarded the Law (613 commandments), but protectively hedged it about with “…the tradition of the elders…” (Mark 7:5) – hundreds of laws layered upon (and often contradicting) God’s Law! Two examples that Jesus condemned are found in…
• …Matthew 15:4 through 6 – “…God commanded…‘Honor your father and…mother….” But you say, ‘Whoever says…“Whatever profit you might have received from me has been dedicated to the temple” — is released from honoring his father or mother.’ ”
• …Matthew 23:16 and 17 – “…you…say…‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? ”
There were some good and godly Pharisees:
• Nicodemus (see John 3:1-10; 7:50-52; 19:39-42).
• Jairus – called “…a ruler of the synagogue…” in Luke 8:41, was probably a Pharisee (see also Matthew 19:18, 23-25; Mark 5:21-25, 35-43; Luke 8:41-43, 49-56).
• Joseph of Arimathaea could have been a Pharisee, but the text does not confirm it (see John 19:38-42).
• Gamaliel is obviously a good Pharisee, but although there is early tradition that he converted to Christianity, there is no proof he ever became a follower of Jesus (see Acts 5:34-40).
But most Pharisees seemed to fit the mold of what Jesus described as the basis for our parable – Luke 18:9: “…He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” The Lord even called them out in Matthew 23:33: “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the damnation of hell? ”
In our parable, this certain Pharisee was so focused on himself, he totally missed the importance of others to God! The ‘other’ in the story is “…this tax collector…standing afar off…”! (Luke 18:11, 13). A tax collector (also called a publican – our parable describes him as such in the King James Version) was hired by the Romans to collect taxes from his fellow Jews. He often became wealthy by extorting extra money above and beyond legitimate taxes! So he was hated by many of the Jews, and considered the worst of sinners by the Pharisees!
Two men went up to the temple to pray…. Both of them hoped to be heard by Jehovah God!
• The Pharisee was confident in his hope because, after all, he was righteous! The problem is, he was self-righteous!
✞ Saint Paul put it this way in Romans 10:3: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”
▸ Romans 3:22 – “…the righteousness of God…is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe.”
▸ Titus 3:5 – “…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
✞ The Pharisee had “I ” trouble!
▸ Notice the content of his prayer: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” Five “I ’s” in 33 words – and just one mention of God!
▸ Another said five “I ’s” in Isaiah 14:13 and 14 – Satan!
I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of
the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. I will be like
the Most High.
✞ According to what Paul wrote in II Corinthians 10:12 (speaking of the false teachers who were misleading the believers of Corinth): “…they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
▸ We can always find someone who is ‘worse’ than we are! But that’s the wrong standard!
▸ The only standard by which we must measure ourselves is God’s standard – and it is found in Matthew 5:48: “…you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Who can attain to that standard?! That is why we need the perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ made available for us on Cavalry! (See II Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:6).
Two men went up to the temple to pray…. But only one went down to his house justified ! That one was the humble tax collector ! Only he stood before God desperately wanting to be forgiven by God’s mercy and grace alone!
In what are you trusting?