Luke tells us that Jesus “told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” This description causes us to infer, of course, that at least some of those He told it to were Pharisees themselves. The parable is about two men – one a Pharisee, a member of an elite group of religious leaders of the day that had a reputation not only for their knowledge of God’s laws, but also for their piety and rigid adherence to those laws as they themselves had interpreted them (most often more stringently than God had intended). The other man was a tax collector – not a mere collector of revenue as we think of them today, but one who would by way of their practices in those days certainly be a great sinner (for an elaboration of the corrupt system that they were a part of, see this previous post).
The Pharisee thanks God for his own righteousness, and that he is not like those who commit great sins (such as the tax collector himself). He then lists some of those good things that he does that set him apart from others. The tax collector, on the other hand, recognizes that he is a sinner; and he confesses that to God in prayer, asking for His forgiveness and mercy. Jesus told them that unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector left the temple justified, for he who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
All through His ministry, Jesus promotes humility, humbleness, love, and service to others. In Mark 9:33-37, He says that “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Paul who reminds us that nobody is without sin (Romans 3:10), says in 2 Corinthians 11:30 “if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” It is this sort of humble and contrite heart that pleases God. Proverbs 3:34 tells us that God gives favor to the humble. Burton Coffman most appropriately quoted Rudyard Kipling in this matter. We’ll leave you with this excerpt from his poem “Recessional:”
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.