Saturday, January 8, 2022

What Does The Parable Of The Pharisee And Tax Collector Teach Us?

Is It About Religiosity In The Name Of God Vs Relationship With God?

Question: What does the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector teach us? Is it about Religiosity in the name of God Verses Relationship with God?

Answer: Greetings to you in Jesus wonderful and glorious name!

Parables of Jesus sometimes are real stories and even model stories about nature and day to day happenings which Jesus used it in his teachings to reveal heavenly realities and truth that humans can understand and relate to it easily. Such stories are spoken by Jesus with some questions asked and communicated back and forth to people to convict, comfort, edify, and exhort them (1 Cor 14:3).

Let us hear Jesus' Parable from him, "9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise 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, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14).

The intended audience that Jesus spoke this parable to were some people who trusted in themselves and thought that they were righteous while despising others.

The name, “Pharisee,” likely comes from the Hebrew word 'prushim', meaning “separated ones,” which clearly signifies that these people separated themselves from the common people to keep the law of Moses and through it attain salvation and resurrection to life (Acts 23:6).

In short, it is the religious sect of Pharisee that separated themselves from the common people and despised them because they believed that the common people were sinners cursed by God because of not knowing the law of Moses which they themselves tried to master and keep it within their sect (John 9:34; 5:39-40).

The tax collectors were the worst of sinners according to the Pharisees because they worked to collect tax for the Romans who enslaved God's people the Jews.

Thus Jesus reveals through this Parable the mindset of the Pharisee who considered himself as holy and despised all other people apart from their sect as sinners from birth and cursed by God. The tax collector's mindset was also revealed to us through this parable, who considered himself as that worst of sinner exactly according to what the Pharisee considered him to be.

So while the Pharisee spoke the law to others rightly, they themselves never applied it to their own lives, thus living wrongly (Matt 23:1-3).

How God Saw The Pharisee Who Prayed To Him?

Thus we see "two men [going].. up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector." While the Pharisee considered himself as holy and all others as sinners, seemed to pray to God but that prayer did not even reach the roof over his head, but rather according to God, he was praying to himself. In other words, the Pharisee's prayer was feeding his own pride and was bloating his self which was the only thing enthroned in his life in the name of God and the Jewish religion which he professed.

Thus we see the Pharisee praying, "‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’"

We see the Pharisee calling on God based on the work he has been doing, here we see five 'I' that he said, just like his father the devil who said the same thing in pride from the beginning and was thrown down by God, and as a result has fallen from heaven (Isa 14:13-14; John 8:44).

The moment any human despises his fellow brethren without love, he is clearly described in the Scripture as "the children of the devil." (1 John 3:10).

Every religion on earth says 'do' and God will be pleased with your life, only Jesus the Messiah of the whole world said, 'Done' (John 19:30), believe me now and live for eternity (John 11:25-26).

So we know that this, 'Holier than Thou' attitude of the Pharisee was a stench in the nostrils of God and the fire of His wrath that burns all the day in his sight
(Isa 65:5), for God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). Because these Pharisees knew and taught the Law of Moses, but still hardened their heart by breaking the commandments of God and adding the commandments of men (Matt 15:9), the Scripture says, it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them (2 Peter 2:21).

The Pharisee was not even really concerned about what God wants to speak to him, but was all concerned about his so called spirituality which he wanted to flaunt and show it to God. He calls God not to really thank him, but to make Him notice how great he is, and how poor and wretched sinners his fellow humans were and the tax collector who stood near him was, whom God says that He has created them in His own image (Gen 1:27; James 3:9-12). As from a deadly snake or cobra, this Pharisee just like the devil was spewing deadly and sinful poison towards the tax collector and towards God who made him in his own image (Jam 3:8). By thinking himself as better than all others, he has deceived himself in to religious darkness which God rejects and resists (Gal 6:3). This Pharisee is actually the biggest of all sinner who needs salvation at that moment of time, because God is fighting against his wrong and evil attitude of pride which he has inherited from his father the devil (Prov 3:34).

This Pharisee fasting and giving tithe was not to God, but was to show how great he is to other people around, and to his own self which will be filled with more and more pride, that feeling of self-exaltation for a fleeting moment will be his only reward (Matt 6:2, 5, 16).

The fact of the matter is, according to God, this man's sin of pride is the mother of all sins and therefore he is the worst sinner more than all others around him. The man of God C.S. Lewis says, "It was through pride that the Devil became the Devil: Pride leads to every other vice. It is the complete anti-God state of mind."

This man Pharisee has never experienced God at all, that is why he is continuing in his pride and is not even realizing that pride is the worst of all sin because all others sins stems out of it. This Pharisee needs repentance from his pride and need to understand that he is conceited, and therefore a sinner in need of Jesus the Savior, or else he is on the pathway to eternal hell fire (John 8:24; James 4:10).

This Pharisee could pray this prayer a million times and inflate his egoistic pride, but it is of no use to God and therefore this attitude could lead him in to eternity without God which is hell fire, unless he repents with humility to confess it to God and fellow humans to be saved from his sin.

We need to learn from this that we should repent of the sin of pride and religiosity regularly as it tends to show its head now and then to poison our soul and take us away from God. We need to repent of the bad attitudes like the 'Holier Than Thou', which make us despise others and makes our heart hardened enough to belittle others. Always humbling ourselves before God and others should be a part of our prayer schedule to keep ourselves spiritually fit from self-deception and conceit. God is the one who spiritually lifts us up and uses us to glorify His name, therefore we need to give God all the glory after God does great things through us (Luke 17:10).

How God Saw The Tax-Collector Who Prayed To Him?

"13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise 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, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Here we see the attitude of tax collector who prayed to God, first of all he knew his own unworthiness and God's worthiness as the righteous Creator and Judge of all things who have promised to help the sinner to be saved by his mercies (Psa 9:8; Isa 44:1-2; 45:21-22).

The Tax-Collector had the fear of God within him, this fear of God came within him out of reverence, respect and passion for God (Prov 8:13; 15:16; 19:23). The fear of God brought in to the tax-collectors mind a outlook of the forgiving nature and covenant of the Lord, and his mercies which he shows to forgive the sins of his people who fear Him and hate sin (Exo 20:20; 2 Chron 19:7; Psa 25:14; 111:10; Luke 1:50).

The very description of the tax-collectors approach to the Presence of God by "standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast," shows to us how much unworthy he felt inside him to approach God because of knowing his sinful condition which was revealed by the Holy Spirit and God's righteousness and holiness which he understood within (John 16:8-11).

This tax-collector understood the mercies of God so clearly, he cries out saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ (Matt 9:13; Luke 6:36-37; Titus 3:5; Psa 59:10). God has worked in the heart of this tax-collector because of his humility before God, and therefore He could transform him in to a merciful man towards others, so that he could receive mercy from God because of his repentant attitude which is a gift from God (2 Tim 2:25-26).

God guarantees that this tax-collector, though a sinner in need of God's mercies to be forgiven of his sins, "this man went down to his house justified rather than the other." The word justified means, 'Just as if he has never sinned at all' or in other words, 'declared or made righteous in the sight of God.' When the tax-collector and the Pharisee returned away from God's presence of the temple which they sought for themselves (2 Chron 6:18-42), the tax-collector in the sight of God was forgiven of all his sins and was declared as a righteous by Him, but the Pharisee went away as a sinner from the Presence of God, which was just the same spiritually pitiful condition he came in.

What made the tax-collectors attitude click with God to receive His mercies abundantly, and made God to resist the attitude of the Pharisee to send him away empty handed? In fact Jesus glorifies this key to receive God's mercies saying, "for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

The Pharisee exalted himself before God by showing off his greatness to Him by speaking to himself in pride and despising others who were made in the image of God, thus he was sent away from God's Presence empty handed. But the Tax-Collector humbled himself before God by displaying the fear of God before Him, thus he was exalted by God, by having not only forgiven of all his sins, but also declared as righteous before heaven and earth which He was able to realize within his heart.

We need to check ourselves constantly whether we have this humble attitude of the tax-collector which makes us friend of God or the prideful attitude of the pharisee which makes us enemy of God (1 Pet 5:6-7; James 2:23; 4:6-7; Isa 63:10). We need to be merciful towards others who are fellow sinners, in order to humbly appeal to God to receive mercy for ourselves from Him at the time of our need. When we judge others, we cannot show mercy to them or could be able to forgive them of their debt towards us. Let us rather learn to judge ourselves first, and judge others the least and last (1 Cor 11:31-32), so that we might be able to receive God's mercies and grace at all times coming before His Throne or the Presence of God by calling on His name (Isa 65:24; Heb 4:16; Rom 10:13).

May God help us all to receive His abundant mercies just like the tax-collector with the humble attitude towards God, not only when we first believed but for all the days of our life on earth and forever in Jesus mighty name (Rom 13:11; 1 Pet 1:17), so that mercies and grace of God might follow us all the days of our life (Psa 23:6). Amen! Hallelujah!!!

Much Blessings...


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