THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN
Scripture Reading: Luke 18:9-14
9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
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.
13 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.
Before discussing this parable, it is important to understand who the key players are. First, let us examine what history reveals about the Pharisees. According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, the Pharisees were a religious party or faction of separatists. Along with the Sadducees and Essenes, the Pharisees were the chief sects among the Jews. They regarded the oral law as well as the written law. There are numerous accounts in Scripture of their views being contrary to those of the Lord Jesus. These views included but were not limited to them favoring the outward appearance versus the inward spirit, self-righteousness versus confession of sin and humility, and they viewed every nation but their own with contempt. Of course, there are some wonderful exceptions such as Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Paul and Gamaliel who demonstrated upright character in the Scriptures.
Secondly, publicans or tax collectors collected Roman revenue. Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary and the Scriptures reveal their shady dealings and how they were hated by most. They overcharged when given the opportunity and brought false charges in the hopes of extorting the people. In addition, many Jews felt it unlawful in the first place to pay tribute. One of the most famous tax collectors was Zacchaeus who called himself, a chief among the publicans.