Luke 18:9 - 14
ESV - 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.
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The story of the two worshippers at the temple is one of Jesus' finest lessons. It teaches the value of humility and how one should present one's self in repentance to God. It also teaches how not to present one's self. I have attended many different denominations in my Christian profession. It's funny that in almost every church there seemed to be that one person proclaiming their righteous lifestyle and their sanctification. God Bless these atoned pillars, but their proclamations caused me to feel unworthy and spiteful. I must confess my sin of judging these folks, yet this reflects exactly the scenario Jesus conveys in the story. I missed it for a long time. The behaviors of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector are clearly portrayed in scripture. Where I failed to grasp the full meaning was not in what was said and done, but what was NOT said or done. The Pharisee proclaims his worthiness and exhibits little humility in his statement in prayer to God. Whereas the Tax Collector, in full repentance and sincerity, is concentrating on God's forgiveness. Looking down in humility caused the Tax Collector to focus on his repentance and not the Pharisee's pointing finger. I doubt he even knew the Pharisee was there. The Tax Collector came in truth to seek God's Grace. He did not look around and evaluate how he compared to others there that day. In other words, the Tax Collector came to see God and focused on He alone. Now, when I attend worship, if I am attentive to this lesson, I focus on approaching God with only Him in mind. It's hard not to look around and place one's self in the social strata at church, yet, if we heed the lesson told in this story, we will focus on our need for God's Grace and not be concerned with others perceptions. Taking the time to judge others at worship depletes the time and value of our own worship. Remove judgement, add humility, and worship in truth that He is faithful to forgive our sins. If God becomes the focus and we present ourselves in truth, God is pleased by our humble praise of his Holy Name. Dean Donahue, Show Low, Arizona
We must remember that Jesus is speaking in parable and that hyperbole is a tool of parables to exaggerate and accentuate the message. This is a fictional story that carries the truth. We should be wary of using something in a parable to reduce an entire group of people such as the Pharisees to a simple picture. The genius of this parable is that it causes all of us to do EXACTLY what the Pharisee is doing. When we read this parable, we all like to identify with the tax collector rather than the Pharisee. What we end up doing though - whether it is on a conscious level or not - is saying "I'm glad I'm not like that Pharisee." This is exactly what the Pharisee does when he says "Thank you I am not like other people" (Luke 18:11). One of the main aspects of this parable is that Jesus is pointing out how easily and quickly we can put up a wall of self-righteousness and make judgments towards others. The Pharisee character immediately becomes the "other" as we judge him for doing exactly what we - at the moment - are doing ourselves. The introduction of the parable tells us everything we need to know: "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable" (Luke 18:9). Who is this directed at? Who is the "some" in this sentence? It's us! It's all of us. When we put up a wall of self-righteousness we immediately diminish the humanity of the "other" person we are judging. Jesus does not want us to diminish anyone's humanity. Failing to see the humanity of the people around us can lead to terrible things happening. Additionally, it reduces the fact that all people are made in the image of God - even the people we do not like. There are other lessons in this parable as well such as having the proper heart condition when seeking forgiveness from God, but we must see that a primary one is how easily we fall into the "self-righteousness" trap set by Jesus and begin judging others. The moment we begin to judge others we need to stop ourselves and instead choose to forgive them. It is only after we can release judgment towards others that we can see them in the fullness of their humanity - just as God sees them.
The sin of the Pharisees was pride. They had no need of a savior. We are all prideful to a degree. The second we say we have no pride we just admitted we do. It was the unbelief of Jesus that kept them out of heaven. We are all sinners. What we need is a savior. Jesus came down from heaven, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, went to the cross to pay for the sins of the whole world, First John 2:2, so that anyone could believe He did it for them to receive the free gift of eternal life. John 3:16-18. John 5:24. John 6:47. Gods word and He cannot lie. Romans 1:16. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, First Corinthians 15:1-4, for it is the POWER of God unto salvation to everyone that BELIEVETH, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 6:23 For the penalty for sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life. Paid in full. John 3:18. Romans 11:6. No one can earn heaven. We can earn rewards in heaven, First Corinthians 3:11-15, but not eternal life. John 6:47. Acts 16:31. Since Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, First John 2:2, that means he died for all our sins. Since Jesus died to pay for all our sins then we do not have to go to hell to pay for them. The GIFT of God is eternal life. Once we accept the GIFT of eternal life, we have eternal life. John 3:18. Sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 1:13-14 and Ephesians 4:30. John 5:24. First John 5:13.
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