He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Today we might grumble about paying taxes and perhaps feel that the money raised should be spent in a different way. We do know that the people collecting our taxes are fair and honest and only collect what is set out in the rules and laws. This is different to the situation at the time of Jesus, when the tax collector could collect extra and keep it for himself. This made tax collectors very unpopular with most people. Despite this Jesus did not condemn this tax collector because he admitted that he was a sinner and called on God in repentance. In contrast the Pharisee was someone who thought of himself as being righteous as he observed all the laws he could think of and spent many hours in prayer.
The difference between these two is clear, the Pharisee thought that he was a wonderful and almost perfect person and certainly superior to most others while the tax collector admitted that he was not perfect and cried out to God for forgiveness.
As we look around our locality, we may see people who live a lifestyle that we disagree with. We hear on the news of people who commit a variety of heinous crimes. These crimes can have devastating effects on many people. It is easy to be like the Pharisee and decide that we are far better than those people, but are we? Paul wrote in Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. It is not the sin that condemns us but how we deal with our wrongdoing. We need to make sure that we follow the example of the tax collector and admit our failings and trust God, through Jesus, to forgive our sins.
Loving God I am sorry for all the times that I have failed. I’ve tried so hard, but I’ve failed. I thank you that you are willing to forgive me, not because I’ve done anything good but because your son, Jesus, died for me. Please help me to do better, teach me to reply of your Holy Spirit for guidance. I bring my prayers to you in the name of Jesus Amen.