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.