New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Pharisee and Tax Collector

Luke 18:9-14

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Our first verse defines the audience – The Lord spoke this parable to those who considered themselves righteous, and that treated others with contempt. Oh the trap of self righteousness!

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and finally in Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord give this message?

Jesus had been battling the Pharisees in proclaiming the message of the Kingdom of God throughout His ministry and as His message was taking hold, it became obvious that religion was the greatest hinderance to the gospel. Jesus often preached of the requirements of faith, humility, love and forgiveness. Religious adherence fostered pride, isolation and contempt for others not so “faithful”.

This parable highlights the stark difference between a religious man, the Pharisee, and a follower of the true God, (a tax collector!) along with the resultant fruits.

What was the message for the original audience?

The message was simple for His audience. Religious pride separates them from the Father. Note that in Luke 18:14, Jesus teaches that the Pharisee is not justified. Between the two men, the beggar only was justified. No one else.

The very justification that the Pharisee gloated in was not in his possession. The very justification the tax collector admitted to not deserving, became his very own identity – a justified man!

The Kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom for those of us entrenched in a religious system!

What is the message for us today?

I suppose the message for the original audience is the same for the modern audience, and yet one item nags me in my thinking.

Luke links the attitude of treating others with contempt to the Pharisees boasting of his religious life.

Is this not a red light in our lives, that if you consider other Christians less than yourself, for what ever reason you use the justify your thinking, you may be exhibiting the very arrogance the Pharisee was enslaved in?

Heck, not just other Christians, but anyone we come into contact with, if our attitude is that of contempt, brings upon us the very same judgement received by the Pharisee.

Personally, I have spent years of pride (even more than I exhibit currently), in considering others as those who are despicable, contemptible and of no account. This is an attitude of judgement and worthy of exposing in all of our lives.

When was the last time in church you considered someone less than you? That had a different opinion that was not worthy of your time. That was less in God’s sight than yourself?

How about at your work, where there are many who may irritate you, and that you secretly curse.

How about at home, with loved ones, feeling that you deserve respect, or that others are there to serve you. That certain tasks are below you.

My friends, if you consider another to be of no account because you are special, it is time to get adjusted!


Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

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