Summary: The focus is humility in prayer out of a realization that righteousness can not be reached by means of our own efforts. Prayers are heard & answered because of God's mercy not because of our self-justifying merits.
LUKE 18: 9-14 [PARABLES IN LUKE]
THE PARABLE OF THE PRAYERS
In this section Jesus tells a story of a Pharisee and a tax collector. Both were sincere and devout. As a matter of fact, one kept the law scrupulously, or thought he did. The other was in a profession in which extortion and dishonesty were expected. It's seems unfair that the prayer of a man of such exemplary behavior is not acceptable, while the prayer of the one with a questionable job is. The Pharisee had everything, except the one essential thing. The publican had nothing but the one essential quality, which is a sense of his own unworthiness and his need for God's grace [Larson, Bruce, The Preacher's Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983, S. 265.]
The parable is about the honest prayer of a sinner verses the self-justifying prayer of the self-righteous. The main focus is humility in prayer out of a realization that righteousness can not be reached by means of our own efforts. Prayers are heard and answered because of God's mercy not because of our self-justifying merits (v. 14). Jesus therefore rebukes the self-righteous and demonstrates the kind of attitude necessary for God's acceptance [justification] (CIT).
I. SELF-TRUST, 9.
II. SELF-SATISFIED, 10-12.
The purposes of the Parable of the Prayers given in verse 9 are that one cannot trust in himself for righteousness and should not view others with contempt. "And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt."
A great danger of pride is noted right at the start. First, we come to trust our own abilities rather that trusting God. Second we come to regard other people with contempt and disrespect rather that seeing others as being created in the image of God. Pride of self and contempt for others go hand in hand.
Those who trust in themselves that they were righteous refers to those who view their righteousness or acceptance by God as stemming from their personal goodness or their adherence to the law or religious rituals. Jesus' will show that they are self-deceived and then give an example of a disrespected person who is justified in God's sight.
In verse 10 we find two personalities taking center stage. "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The parable takes place in the temple. We are introduced to two attenders of religious services who are on opposite ends of the religious and social spectrum. The first personality we are introduced to is a Pharisee or a religious man who knew all the rules. Pharisees were revered religious figures in Jesus'; day. However, at several points throughout His ministry, Jesus criticizes some of the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.
The other personality is a tax collector (Mt 5:46). Publicans were despised as traitors who had sold themselves out to the Roman captors for the privilege of collecting taxes from their own people. Jesus has a propensity for using the marginalized and ostracized people groups (such as Samaritans) and professions (such as tax gathers and shepherds) for the sake of contrasting genuine faith with Jewish unbelief and self-righteousness. This serves as a not-so-subtle rebuke on certain Jews and Jewish concepts of His day.
II. SELF-SATISFIED, 10-12.
The content of the Pharisees prayer is given in verses 11 & 12. Verse 11 begins the teaching on the wrong way to approach God. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
Notice the content of heart that leads him to say “I am not like other people." His estimation of his own righteousness is greatly exaggerated for he assumes that he is acceptable to God. Self-righteousness is really self-delusion [according to 11:39-54].
[Our opinion of ourselves reflects much about who we think God is.] The man who said, "I am not like other men; I fast; I give tithes" thought himself superior to others, especially this tax collector. The tax collector is grouped with robbers, swindlers, the unethical, and adulterers. The religious man felt God owed him. He gave all the credit for his good life to himself and gave none to God. He praised himself even in the place build for the praise of God. [Notice the Pharisee was praying to himself, instead of to God.]
In 1906 sea Captain E. J. Smith publicly boasted that no real danger existed any more in SEA TRAVEL. He could imagine no way that the great ships then steaming across the oceans could ever founder or even experience any life threatening problems. Six years later he stood on the bridge of the Titanic, the greatest liner of her time, while its builder told him it couldn't stay afloat.