“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:” (Luke 18:9)
It is no laughing matter that in most of our churches, and amongst some who profess Christ, we think ourselves to be more righteous then others.
If we compare ourselves to others who may be a bit worse off than we are, then of course, we would consider ourselves better than the next man. This is the problem we are faced with in this parable we are about to study.
We have two men in this parable, a Pharisee and a Publican. Let’s look at the attitude of the Pharisee, and see what the Word of God has to say:
Luke 18:10-12, “(10) Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. (11) The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. (12) I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”
The Pharisee’s Attitude:
“I am not as other men are” – comparing one’s self to others – Pride.
(2 Corinthians 10:12) “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
This Pharisee was very unwise to compare himself to this Publican; he was unwise because we are told in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
A list of others besetting sins – adultery, extortioner, unjust…
The Pharisees were Judaizers who believed in keeping the Law of Moses. Here, he lists all the sins of others, thanking God that he is not like these people, or the Publican. What does the Bible say about those who justify themselves by the works of the law?
(Romans 3:20) “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
(Galatians 2:16) “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
The “I” problem – “I fast… I give tithes…”
No matter how “good” we think we are, or how many good deeds we do – it is not enough to justify ourselves before God. The Word of God tells us:
(Isaiah 64:6) “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
(Titus 3:5-7) “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (not by works of the Law or by doing good deeds); (6) Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; (7) That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
We see that the Bible has a lot to say about the attitude of this Pharisee. Jesus said that this Pharisee “stood and prayed thus with himself.” Now, if this means that this is what he said silently (God hears our silent prayers), or that his prayer went no further than himself, God had no regard to this prayer.
Now, let’s look at the attitude of the Publican, and see what the Word of God has to say:
Luke 18:13-14, “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon 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 every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
The Publican’s Attitude:
- He “would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven”
- He “smote upon his breast”
- He please with God for mercy
- He sees himself as God sees him
(Psalms 51:17) “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
(Isaiah 57:15) “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
(Psalms 34:18) “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”
Jesus, in verse 14 of this parable, tells us who walks away justified before God – the Publican. You may not be an adulterer, or an extortioner; or even as some other person you may compare yourself to. But the fact of the matter is: First, God is no respecter of person (Acts 10:34); Secondly, we all have sinned and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23); and Lastly, a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28). In conclusion, don’t compare yourself with others. Compare yourself by the standard that God has set forth. You may find that you are not as righteous as you think you are.