Stories on Inspiration, Love and Life Lessons

Pride Versus Humility

Self-Righteousness To Be Replaced with God’s Righteousness!

An image of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector praying in the Temple
The Pharisee and the Media by James Tissot, image by slmedia.org

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: Luke 18:9

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: Luke 18:10

The Pharisee, standing by himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, Luke 18:11a

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ Luke 18:13

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. Luke 18:14a

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 18:14b

Today’s story presents an astonishing contrast between two men.

Now introducing these two very different men. The Pharisee was a man of very high standing in his local community. And he knew it. He strictly observed every minute detail of Mosaic law. He adhered to the exacting details of Jewish religious rites, rituals and traditions.

He, as all Pharisees, shunned all others. He saw everyone else as being “unclean.” He kept himself separate from those he considered ‘the common people.’

Publicans, or tax collectors, on the other hand, were looked down upon. Many in their community often treated them with contempt. Their fellow Jews saw them no better than robbers and thieves.

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Ecclesiastes 5:1

These men were indeed the extreme opposite of each other. In their belief in God and how it played out that day in the Temple.

These two both go to their local Temple with the same motive. To pray. This is where the similarity ends. These men are totally different in character, belief and self-belief.

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:16

Now to look at the actions of these men in the temple. The Pharisee’s prayer was a testimony extolling his virtues. How he believed he was so much better than everyone else.

In contrast, the tax collector humbled himself before God. Privately seeking God’s forgiveness and salvation. He knew in his heart he was a sinner before God.

What is the main message of this parable? Jesus teaches you the extreme importance of praying to God the Father with the right attitude.

Effective prayers are filled with faith in God. Believing that He loves you and is always available for you. That He listens to and answers your prayers. Prayers filled with thankfulness for all His mercy, grace and blessings in your life.

And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him. 1 John 5:14–15

You, should be like the Tax Collector, humble and never think you are better than other people.

The consequence for the Pharisee. He chose his own importance over God. He was found guilty before God. The death penalty was pronounced upon him as his sentence.

Many believe that the death penalty for sin is harsh. From a cruel and demanding God. On the contrary. God has very high standards. God is Holy and perfect.

God is LOVE! God in His grace provided justification as a means for all to be freed from the death penalty. To be washed clean once more.

God Himself frees you of sin. You are made pure and right before Him.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The consequence for the Tax Collector. Is quite the opposite. The publican confessed his sinfulness before God. He humbles himself before His God. God forgives him. He is now justified. He is now righteous before God. This tax collector was ridiculed and held in contempt by fellow Jews. He received the grace of God.

Lithograph of Pharisee and Tax Collector praying in the Temple, image supplied by dreamstime.com

The lesson Jesus teaches us in the Parable the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

The teachings of Jesus, even though told many centuries ago are still vital and relevant for you today. Jesus taught His lessons in the style of parables. Which are so simple children are able to learn and understand from them. These parables are so strong they have survived the test of time. They are rich in wisdom for you. To have and to cherish. To learn from now.

Jesus uses images and captions of everyday life in these parables. Each lesson adds wisdom and insight to you, the hearer.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, 1 Peter 5:6

So it is with the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. This story delves into the difference between the outer pomp and the ceremony of the Pharisee. And, the true humble faith and belief of the publican.

As with all Jesus’ lessons, it is not directed only at these two men alone. This wise and rich tutorial speaks to the heart of those who are self-righteous. Anyone who feels they do not need God in their lives.

Jesus with all the wisdom and love He has as God Almighty wants you in God’s family. He knows how the devil tempts each of us to feel pride and self-righteousness. So proud of our own accomplishments.

I know when I am extra tired at night my prayers are a little ritualistic. Repetitive. I just want to get them over and done with. I am just so tired. I want to roll over in bed and go to sleep. Of course, it isn’t that easy. My soul isn’t at peace. I take myself in hand. Beg for God’s forgiveness and start my private time with Him anew.

This time it is God who is in the first place. And, guess what I am not that tired after all.

Do you have times when praying to God your Heavenly Father is more ritual than prayer? Jesus loves you and wants you to be like the tax collector. Truthful and earnest prayers spoken humbly to Him. He is waiting to answer your prayer. He just needs you to have faith and believe in Him.

It is not the words you use in the prayer. It is the love you have for your Heavenly Father. The why behind your prayer makes all the difference. Self-centred prayers are only focused on the person doing all the talking.

The lesson throughout this parable is God’s justification. The loving act of God transforms a repentant sinner into a state of grace. From injustice to justice.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

Throughout the New Testament, there are many illustrations witnessing the atoning work of Jesus.

Each of us needs to approach God in faith as a repentant sinner and believe in His salvation.

That God our Heavenly Father indeed “pardons and accepts believing sinners is the truth that is enshrined in the doctrine of justification by faith” (biblestudytools.com).

God loves you and He always will!

Please be sure to give this story some claps and follow me if you found it interesting and uplifting. And want to read more!

Thank you!

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Diane Markey

Diane Markey

Professional Artist. I write stories about Inspiration, Love and Life Lessons. Written from my heart and from life experiences. Qualified Personal Counsellor.