Summary: Be like the tax collector, not the Pharisee

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To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable (v. 9).

This parable was directed at SELF-RIGHTEOUS people.


“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector” (v. 10).

· Pharisees were ADMIRED as holy men.

“In Jesus’ world, the Pharisees were the most popular group of Jewish leaders. They were widely admired by the ordinary farmers and fishermen, the so-called people of the land. The Pharisees were descendents of a reform movement in Judaism from the mid-second century B.C. Their goal was to contextualize the law of Moses, to bring them up to date and apply them to every area of modern life, so that God’s people could know how to be obedient in every situation in which they found themselves, with as few gray areas as possible” (Craig Blomberg, Preaching the Parables, p. 159).

· Tax collectors were DESPISED as traitors.

“The average Jew believed that tax collectors had sold out to the enemy by working for the occupying Roman forces, an empire that God had promised one day to destroy. In general, Judaism at the time tended to ostracize what we call the “down and out”—the poor, the sick (particularly lepers), as well as members of other ethnic groups like Samaritans and Gentiles. The tax collectors were the one fairly well-to-do category of Jewish people who were equally ostracized. You might call them the ‘up and out’” (Blomberg, p. 159).


“The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get’” (vv. 11-12).

The self-righteous Pharisee was confident in his own ACHIEVEMENTS.

The Pharisee begins his prayer with thanksgiving, but he doesn’t mention God’s acts, only his own.

The self-righteous person compares himself to others rather than to God.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:23-28).


“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’” (v. 13).

The repentant tax collector was desperate for God’s MERCY.


“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 14).

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

1. Self-righteousness is a great BARRIER to acceptance before God.

The Pharisees thought they were “healthy” (self-righteous).

ILLUSTRATION: In-shape jogger dies of heart attach while running.

2. Humble REPENTANCE brings acceptance before God.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him” (Matthew 21:31-32).

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