Summary: Two men went to the Temple to pray. One is a religious leader. The other is a dishonest, man who has no qualms about ripping people off for his one advantage. Which of these two do you think is going to leave in a right relationship with God!
“How To Be Right With God.”
The Parable of The Pharisee and the Publican”
Two men went to the Temple to pray. One is a regular; in fact he is religious leader. The other is a selfish, dishonest, greedy man who has no qualms about ripping people off for his one advantage. Which of these two do you think is going to leave in a right relationship with God?
To put this in modern setting thousands of people will attend church today, but some if not most will leave in exactly the same way they came in. To them church attendance is something you do, God addresses the issue of superficial religion when Isaiah wrote, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. (Isa. 29:13- NIV)
That is the problem with religion, whether it is Roman Catholic religion, or Buddhist religion or Baptist religion. Any religious practice that is primarily concerned with outward performance rather than inward purity. Dr. Ray Pritchard points out rather powerfully when he wrote, “Without a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ, religion leads you to Hell while making you think y0u are going to Heaven.” [Ray Pritchard. “How to Get Right With God.” Luke 18:9-14. www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/how-to-be-right-with-god ]
In verse nine Jesus begins another parable.
Because this parable follows the parable of the persistent widow, where Jesus teaches us to be persistent in our prayers we are tempted to see this parable as also applying to prayer. And on the surface this story does have to do with prayer, the two characters of the parable are praying. But in reality this story is about what we think makes us acceptable in the sight of God.
If we stop to realize it the two prayers of the two men in this parable embody two contrasting views of how to approach God; one on the basis of supposed good works and the other on the basis of God’s grace.
“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: (10) “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. (11) The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. (12) I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ (13) And the tax collec-tor, 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!” (14) “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
I know that intent of this parable is not to show us how to pray because after telling this parable Jesus did not say, “I tell you this man had his prayer answered.” He said rather, “… this man went down to his house justified” (v. 14). So Jesus reveals that the parable’s purpose is to answer the question, “How can a person be justified before God?”
In fact Jesus states His purpose for sharing this parable in verse nine was to enlighten a very specific group of people, those who were “confident of their own righteousness.” The Greek word used to describe these individuals (pepoithotas) depicts them as having a confidence “based on them-selves that they were righteous.”
In other words, Jesus was speaking to those who trusted in their own goodness. These were those who believed that they were good people and therefore right with God and on their way to Heaven. It is the same today. It seems that most people in America consider themselves decent people. But that does not make them right with God!
First, Two Men. (8:10)
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”
In this parable Jesus used two people to contrast each other and make a point. You could not have come up with two people who were seen more differently by society at time than they were. The Pharisee to his society represents the “good guy,” while the tax collector represented the height of wickedness.
• The Pharisee.
Now I recognize that in our world today Pharisee has come be a dirty word. If somebody calls you a Pharisee you will be offended. We are accustomed today to having a negative view of the Pharisees, but in Jesus’ day it was the opposite. The Pharisee was in that time well respected and honored members of their community. Was genuinely a nice guy.