The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Posted by admin on 12 May 2013 in Luke |

Luke 18:9-14  

The Pharisees were religious and political leaders in the society. They were wealthy and respected by people. They were privileged group of people in the society. They were noted for their strict observance of the Law & the elders’ traditions.

Here, the prayer of the Pharisee contained his despise toward sinners. So he thanked God that he was not like them (11). This shows that he was arrogant. In addition, he confessed he fasted twice a week and tithed from all he got (12). But the Law required only an annual fast (Leviticus 16:29) and a tithe was required on certain items, not all items possessed(Deuteronomy 14:22-23). So he was doing more than what God asked. This shows that he was relying on self-righteousness.  Also he thought he was righteous and didn’t request forgiveness from God. As a result, he didn’t receive it.

On the other hand, the tax collector was HUMBLE.

Israel was a colony of Roman Empire. Roman Empire employed Jews as Tax collectors and let them collect tax from the Jews. Tax collectors were considered as extortionist because they collected more than what was required, for personal gain. Also they were considered as traitors because they represented Roman Empire despite they were Jews. The Jews wouldn’t very happy about such collection, which made their job very tough.

The tax collector in the parable might had enough of hatred & despise during his tough job. His attitude and prayer in the temple showed how much he was humiliated as a tax collector.

The tax collector expressed his repentance and humility through his attitude and words. He stood far off. He would not even look up to heaven.  He beat his breast in anguish over his sins. He called himself a sinner. He pleaded God for mercy. As a result, the tax collector went home justified[1].

Jesus warns against self-righteousness and arrogance but teaches the value of humility.

In conclusion, the Pharisee prayed as one who needed no forgiveness and got none. The tax collector prayed as one who needed forgiveness and he received it. Do we need forgiveness even as Jesus’ disciples? Yes, we do. Then let us pray with the humility of the tax collector, who prayed like the man after God’s own heart, David.

Psalm 51:1-3 (A psalm of David)

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Let us not trust in our own righteousness, but in the mercy and lovingkindness of God offered so abundantly in His Son Jesus Christ! As the beloved disciple wrote in his first letter:

1 John 2: 1-2 1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.





Following reference was used in several part of this message.


[1] Psalm 32:1-2

1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.

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