Summary: In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus describes two very different men, who took two very different approaches to connecting with God, which resulted in two very different outcomes.
Today we begin a new series on rejecting religion for something real. The “something real” is the way of Christ (Christianity), which is not a religion, but a relationship with the living God.
Too many non-believers wrongly think of Christianity as “just another religion,” and, sadly, many of them have come to this conclusion because too many so called believers approach living the Christian life in a religious way. Our goal in this series is to explore the differences between the practice of religion and the practice of Christianity.
We begin with a consideration of Luke 18:9-14, where Jesus told a parable about two men, who followed two different approaches, which led to two different outcomes.
1. Jesus describes two very different men - v. 10
A. One man was a Pharisee, while the other was a Tax Collector.
A Pharisee was a member of a party within Judaism that called on Jews of the time of Christ to follow strictly the Law as they interpreted it. The word “Pharisee” comes from the Hebrew word, “parush,” meaning “separated,” that is, one who is separated for a life of purity.
Pharisees were the pious ‘church-goers’ of their time who attended every Scripture study and diligently sought to obey every law of the faith. They were the best of the best of Jewish citizenry.
Today, people have grown accustomed to thinking negatively of the Pharisees. However, Pharisees were highly respected and looked up to in the Jewish community of Jesus’ day. They were the ‘deacons’ or ‘elders’ of the church so-to-speak.
A tax collector would have been perceived as the worst of the worst of Jewish citizenry, perhaps even lower. They were seen as extortionists and traitors - extortionists because they were notorious for collecting more taxes than were owned and pocketing the difference – and traitors because they served the occupiers of Israel, the Romans.
B. The Pharisee “belonged,” while the Tax Collector didn’t.
Both went to the temple to pray. No doubt, the Pharisee felt right at home. In fact, Jesus said of the Pharisees that they occupied “the most important seats in the synagogues.” He probably had his own pew.
The Tax Collector, on the other hand, was probably “out of his element.” He likely was not a regular at the temple. This was probably a ‘first” for him.
Yet we read in verse 14 that it was the Tax Collector who went home justified before God, as opposed to the Pharisee. The point here is that society’s estimation of a person is not the same as God’s.
“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)
There was a very wicked and rebellious man who decided it would be good for business if he joined a particular church. He was an adulterer, an alcoholic, and had never been a member of a church in his life. He went forward and presented himself for membership, testifying that there was no sin in his life and that he had grown up in church. They readily accepted him as a member.
He went home he told his wife what he had done and his wife, a very godly lady who was a faithful member of another church, exploded. She condemned him as a hypocrite and demanded he go back to the church and confess what he really was. Well, God used his wife to really break him, and he took it to heart.
The next Sunday he went back to the church, walked down to the front again, and this time confessed to the church all of his sins. He told them he was dishonest, an alcoholic, an adulterer, and that he was sorry. They revoked his membership on the spot.
He walked out of the church scratching his head and muttered to himself: “These church folks are really strange. I told a lie and they took me in; and when I told the truth they kicked me out!”
If you or I were to evaluate which of these men was right with God based only on the outward appearance, we would have been as confused as the congregation in that story.
2. Jesus describes two very difference approaches - vs. 11-13
Both of these men approached God, but they did so very differently.
A. One promoted himself while the other humbled himself.
The Pharisee prayed about himself. He bragged on what he did that was good - v. 12. He made a pretense of humbling himself before God, but in reality, Jesus says that “He prayed about himself,” or “to himself.”
This Pharisee was proud about his humility. He presented the idea that he felt God was lucky to have him approach Him.