By Ptr. Samson Uytanlet
Jesus used storytelling extensively in his work as a preacher.
Luke 18:9-14 talks of the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector that Jesus preached. Luke explains in v9 that the parable is intended for an audience of people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt.
The Pharisees are viewed as righteous and take pains to obey the Law. In contrast, the tax collectors were disliked and even hated for their greed and corruption.
Both men did the same thing; they went to the temple to pray. But they also prayed differently.
The NIV translation states that the Pharisee prayed about himself: “I thank You that I am not like other people…”
Contrast the Pharisee’s attitude with the prayer of Mary in Luke 1:48-49, after she learned she was to bear the holy child: “For the Mighty One has done great things for me…” Her focus was on what the Lord has done, not on herself.
Similarly, the tax collector in the parable (verse 13) stood a distance away and was “even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying ‘God be merciful to me, the sinner!'” He considered himself unworthy of even looking up to God; he was too embarrassed and ashamed.
Jesus concludes the story in v14 with “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The lesson of the story is not difficult to understand. We can say with confidence that the listeners of this story could identify with either the Pharisee or the Tax Collector. But there’s an interesting catch to this story: if we the listeners identify with the Pharisee, then we must be guilty of being like him. If we identify with the Tax Collector, then in reality we are actually like the Pharisee, for we are starting to think of ourselves as being self-righteous.
Whether we realize it or not, we all have a little Pharisee within us. Let us examine ourselves and strive to be like the Tax Collector.