March 7 – Parables – Pharisee and Tax Collector

Read Luke 18:9-14

Our ears tend to perk up and we tend to lean in with greater interest when a teacher or author introduces an illustration or story. When it is used well, the illustration serves as a window that gives us greater insight into the point being made. It is like a handle that gives us a firmer grasp of the point.

Jesus was a master-teacher around whom thousands gathered. Still today, His parables allow us to more clearly identify spiritual and personal realities.

In today’s parable, we don’t have to struggle long to understand the point. The story targets people who felt like they were morally upright. And their high estimation of themselves causes them to be critical of others.

Before we dismiss that, we must recognize that such a tendency can creep into the life of anyone. If you, by God’s grace, do not struggle in a specific area, you can overlook the many other areas of weakness in your life. As a result, you not only elevate yourself but you also can’t understand how others might struggle.

To illustrate the point, then, Jesus told a story that revolves around two characters in the temple. Jesus assigned titles to them so that the people in his day would better understand. The Pharisee was the first. He was highly respected. His was a life governed by rules. By his rule keeping, it seemed that he had it all together. His imperfections were beneath the surface, hidden to others and, even, glossed over by himself.

Meanwhile, the tax collector was a virtual antithesis. His Scrooge-like, love of money and his deceptive ways of attaining it had earned him a place at the low end of public opinion. In fact, the Pharisees even lumped “tax collectors and sinners” into one camp of immoral undesirables.

But their respective prayers were key. The Pharisee pridefully lifted up a prayer of self-exaltation and superiority. Meanwhile, the tax collector pled humbly and repentantly for God’s mercy. Of course, it was the tax collector who went home justified.

Let’s face it…God’s opinion matters more than public opinion. The attitude of the heart is, at times, a better measure of reality than the appearance on the surface. Our Father values genuine humility over misguided exaltation.

Are there areas of your life where you have an inflated view of yourself? Do you find yourself looking down on others? Perhaps you should pray the tax collector’s prayer: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Steve Kern

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