Summary: A look at the parable of the prayers of the publican and Pharisee
ME THE SINNER
Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-19
1. Pharisees were proud people whose name means "separated ones"
a. They were no ordinary people, they were special (in their own minds)
b. Accused of building a wall of traditions around the law
c. According to Matthew 15:3 they transgress the commandments of the law for the sake of their traditions
2. They would wash their hands two times
a. Once was to clean them, pouring water over their hands and washing, rubbing one hand with the other until it was clean, holding their hands up so the water ran down to the elbow
b. Then washing again to remove the water defiled in the first washing by the dirt on the hands this time holding the hands down so that the water ran off the fingertips
c. Any other combination was unacceptable and the hands were not considered clean
3. The Publican was the opposite of the Pharisee
a. He was a contracted agent of a conquering government
b. Similar to if Germany had won WWII and one of us took a job as a Nazi operative collecting taxes for Hitler
c. They were considered liars, cheats, and thieves
d. No one who was not a Publican liked Publicans
4. So here is the scene
a. The Publican is on his knees, not nearing the altar
b. No one notices the Publican because no one cares about him
c. The Pharisee shows up at just the right time to worship
d. He flows up to the temple with his robes dancing in the wind
e. All eyes are fixed on him as he makes his grand entrance
5. Then two prayers are uttered that change the whole structure
TRANSITION: Look at the prayers with me
I. The Pharisee’s prayer
A. Notice what he does
1. He takes his customary position
a. He stands large and tall for all to see
b. His aim was for everyone to see him
c. And so that he could see everyone
2. Then look at the next statement
a. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself…"
b. He was praying to himself, not to God
c. He was speaking of himself, not of others.
B. He prayed about imperfect goodness.
1. His entire prayer was about things he had not done or he had given up.
2. He was not a swindler, unjust, adulterer, or even like this tax collector
3. He fasts twice a week and pays tithes of all he gets.
a. He has given up so much, he is just so wonderful
b. He has done nothing wrong
4. A famous Rabbi named Hillel summed up the law in this way, "Do not to thy neighbor what is disagreeable to thee."
a. This is the anti-golden rule
b. In Matthew 7:12 Jesus does not teach that we only refrain from doing things to people that we do not want done to us
c. But that we do for people as we would like for them to do for us
d. In other words, do not just keep from harm, but help to make better
5. The parable of the talents illustrates this
a. Those that used what they had were rewarded for increasing by use
b. The one who had only one talent did not do anything wrong, he just did not do anything
c. By not doing anything he was cast out into outer darkness
d. Guy Woods illustrated it this way
i. A dummy in a store window does not steal, kill, slander, or backbite
ii. Should we not do more than a dummy in a store window as children of the most high God?
iii. Should we identify ourselves with a list of things we have not done and think that the absence of malice makes the heart of the brave?
iii. Now I do not want to do any harm to anyone
iv. But if not doing harm is all that I have to say for myself then I have missed it.
v. Absence of negative activity does not make presence of godly living
C. The Pharisee’s prayer was full of pride and self-reassurance
1. Remember that Jesus says that he prayed to himself, not to God
2. His first words are that he is thankful for not being like other men
a. How would that make you feel as one listening?
b. Thank you God for not making me like these other pitiful excuses for people that you have surrounded me with
c. How loathsome a statement can be made?
d. Yet he makes it
3. He truly believed it
a. It is like he is saying, "Look at me God. See the wonderful person I am here.
b. He does speak out of gratitude