The Pharisee and the Publican: A Life Lesson
“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 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. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 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. 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.” Luke 18:9-14
Jesus tells a story. Two men. Polar opposites. The snooty, snobby, self-righteous Pharisee who snottily looks down on others, brags on his works, and puts his trust in himself like he is God. The humble, broken, lowly publican whose profession per online research is filled with sin and looked down upon who so knows he is nothing and is in desperate need of God’s mercy that even his eyes he lowers downward. One believes he’s so good and righteous he doesn’t need God. The other knows he’s so broken and bad he begs God for mercy. Whom does God honor? Which one are we?
God honors those who humble themselves and cry out for mercy. Oh, how easy it is to stand far away from this story like we’re in a Broadway theater watching a play before we walk out of the theater, gorge on coffee and dessert and discuss the characters, then hurry back into our real lives. This isn’t just a story; it’s a life lesson. We need to pick up our mirrors and see what God shows us. Are we the Pharisee? Or the publican? Or some mix of both in need of further refining by God’s Spirit and His Word as we learn to humble ourselves and repent as often as we need?
We can’t earn God’s love. He already loves us. We can’t earn His mercy. Christ died on the cross to pay the punishment for our sins so we can have God’s mercy. We can’t do enough to have a relationship with God on earth and receive the promise of eternity with God instead of spending forever in hell apart from Him. Jesus paid the price for us to have this. We can’t buy God’s grace. Grace is undeserved. We are undeserving of all God offers us. We can only receive all God offers us by humbling ourselves before Him and pleading for mercy, believing in and following Christ, turning from our sins unto God. This isn’t a one-shot deal; it’s a lifestyle of humility and knowing we are nothing without Him.
Are you like the publican who knows he is nothing without God? Or the Pharisee who trusts in himself instead of God? Humble yourself and plead mercy!