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Bible verses about Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Isaiah 14:12-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Probably all of us have thought that we know better than those in charge. Watch out! Thinking like this is not wrong in itself, but it is something that lodged itself in Lucifer's mind: "I know better than the one in charge," and in this case, it was God.

We can begin to see how his pride was beginning to exalt itself against God. It was moving to break the relationship between them. It was coming between Lucifer and God so that their relationship could not continue. Lucifer could not continue to serve God.

Most have felt that we have been overlooked, neglected, or abused. Most of us have felt rejected a time or two. Of and by themselves, these feelings are not wrong. But, again, we must beware, because these feelings can begin to generate pride. Such a thing fed Lucifer's feelings about himself. They simmered in him and made him angry, and he desired to assert his will to control the governance of all that was happening. "I will ascend to heaven," he said, and he tried to. We see the pattern here; we can see the process involved from beginning to end.

It ends in warfare against God, which is why a person of pride cannot have a good relationship with Him. A proud person cannot have faith in God, at least not very much. A small amount of faith can be there, but pride will definitely be a hindrance. This is why the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18:9-14 follows immediately after of the Parable of the Importunate Widow (Luke 18:1-8), which Jesus ends with, "When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on earth?"—because humility is essential to faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Luke 18:9-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice Jesus' teaching in verse 9: "Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." This specific problem is religious egotism; the Pharisee despised others. Despised means "to count as nothing" or "to be contemptuous of." Can one have a good relationship with someone he despises? Pride finds fertile ground in our process of evaluation and begins to produce corrupt fruit.

This parable reveals the Pharisee to possess a misguided confidence that caused him to magnify himself by comparing himself against someone he felt to be inferior. It fed his own opinion of himself, causing separation from his fellow man. While that was happening, it also brought him into war with God! The Pharisee became separated from God because, as the parable says, he was not justified.

We need to take warning because, if we begin to feel contaminated in the presence of a brother—if we begin to withdraw from him or are constantly finding fault with him and being offended by almost everything he does—we may well be in very great trouble! The sin of pride may be producing its evil fruit, and the division is strong evidence of it.

This parable features a self-applauding lawkeeper and an abased publican. One is not simply good and the other evil; both are equally sinners but in different areas. Both had sinned, but the outward form of their sins differed. Paul taught Timothy that some men's sins precede them and others follow later (I Timothy 5:24). The publican's sins were obvious, the Pharisee's generally better hidden.

The Pharisee's pride deluded him into thinking he had a righteousness he did not really possess. His prayer is full of self-congratulation, and like a circle, it keeps him firmly at its center (notice all the I's in Luke 18:11-12). He makes no lowly expression of obligation to God; he voices no thanksgiving for what God had given him; he gives no praise to God's glory. He asks for nothing, confesses nothing, and receives nothing! But very pronouncedly, he compares himself with others. He is filled with conceit and is totally unaware of it because his pride has deceived him into concentrating his judgment on the publicans—sinners who were contaminating his world!

The humble publican did not delude himself into thinking he was righteous. What made the difference? It was a true evaluation and recognition of the self in relation to God, not other men. The basis of their evaluations—pride or humility—made a startling difference in their conclusions, revealing each man's attitudes about himself and his motivations.

The one finds himself only good, the other only lacking. One flatters himself, full of self-commendation. The other seeks mercy, full of self-condemnation. Their approach and attitude toward God and self are poles apart! One stands apart because he is not the kind of man to mingle with inferiors. The other stands apart because he considers himself unworthy to associate himself with others. One haughtily lifts his eyes to heaven; the other will not even look up! How different their spirits! Anyone who, like the Pharisee, thinks he can supply anything of great worth to the salvation process is deluding himself!

Against whom do we evaluate ourselves? Pride usually chooses to evaluate the self against those considered inferior. It must do this so as not to lose its sense of worth. To preserve itself, it will search until it finds a flaw.

If it chooses to evaluate the self against a superior, its own quality diminishes because the result of the evaluation changes markedly. In such a case, pride will often drive the person to compete against—and attempt to defeat—the superior one to preserve his status (Proverbs 13:10). Pride's power is in deceit, and the ground it plows to produce evil is in faulty evaluation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Luke 18:9-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The publican's is the language of the poor in spirit. We do not belong anywhere except alongside the publican, crying out with downcast eyes, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" John Calvin, the sixteenth-century theologian whose teachings form the basis of Reformed Protestantism, wrote, "He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God is poor in spirit" (Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke, p. 261).

Notice how Jesus brought out that the underlying attitude of the Pharisee was reliance in self. He boasted before God of all his "excellent" qualities and works, things he evidently thought would earn him God's respect. His vanity about these things then motivated him to regard others as less than himself. So we see that self-exaltation is the opposite of poor in spirit.

Poor in spirit is contrary to that haughty, self-assertive, and self-sufficient disposition that the world so much admires and praises. It is the reverse of an independent and defiant attitude that refuses to bow to God—that determines to brave things out against His will like Pharaoh, who said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice . . .?" (Exodus 5:2). A person who is poor in spirit realizes that he is nothing, has nothing, can do nothing—and needs everything, as Jesus said in John 15:5, "Without Me you can do nothing."

In his commentary, The Sermon on the Mount, Emmett Fox provides a practical description of what "poor in spirit" means:

To be poor in spirit means to have emptied yourself of all desire to exercise personal self-will, and, what is just as important, to have renounced all preconceived opinions in the whole-hearted search for God. It means to be willing to set aside your present habits of thought, your present views and prejudices, your present way of life if necessary; to jettison, in fact, anything and everything that can stand in the way of your finding God. (p. 22)

Poverty of spirit blooms as God reveals Himself to us and we become aware of His incredible holiness and towering mercy in even calling us to be forgiven and invited to be in His Family—to be like Him! This understanding awakens us to the painful discovery that all our righteousness truly is like filthy rags by comparison (Isaiah 64:6); our best performances are unacceptable. It brings us down to the dust before God. This realization corresponds to the Prodigal Son's experience in Luke 15:14 when "he began to be in want." Soon thereafter, Jesus says, he "came to himself" (verse 17), beginning the humbling journey back to his father, repentance, and acceptance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit


 

Luke 18:9-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) contrasts two different attitudes: self-righteousness and humility. The two men who go to the Temple to pray contrast in character, belief, and self-examination, representing opposite sides of the law. The Pharisee corresponds to the self-righteous, merciless worshipper of the law, and the tax collector exemplifies the humiliated lawbreaker. Both are sinners, although the outward form of their sins differs. Both men allow the judgment that they had already formed about themselves to determine the form and wording of their prayers.

As Luke comments, the parable's purpose is to expose those "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." Despised, which literally means "to count as nothing," describes the religious egotism the Pharisees repulsively personified. Jesus' intention is to rebuke this self-righteous trust in the self, as well as self-righteous loathing of others. Not only do the self-righteous think they are safe from God's judgment, but they also habitually disdain others as not being as righteous as they are and therefore deserving of God's judgment. Although it involves prayer, this parable is not one about how to pray as much as it is on how to be justified before God.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


 

Luke 18:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Pharisee's prayer manifests his mindset (II Peter 2:3). People like him trust in their own works to gain salvation and eternal life, not trusting in Jesus Christ for them. They do not really think they need His sacrifice or help because they think they are good enough in themselves. So, they toot their own horns, making sure God knows how righteous they are. While kneeling before Him, they tell Him all the good things they are always doing, and believe that He is impressed. They act as if God owes them salvation because of their good works.

This attitude shows how little they understand of the true holiness of God and the lowliness of our spiritual state. While on earth, Jesus worked more easily with tax collectors and sinners than with the Pharisees, though the latter were more dedicated to adhering strictly to the letter of the law. The Pharisees, knowing they were more righteous, made sure others knew it. In their self-delusion and self-righteousness, they could learn little from Christ.

The Pharisee, considering others as nothing, treats them accordingly. It is typical of human nature to elevate itself while putting down others, and some believe that this is the only way to elevate themselves above their peers. Isaiah writes about such people: ". . . who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!' These are smoke in [God's] nostrils, a fire that burns all the day" (Isaiah 65:5).

The Pharisee compares his own flaws, not with God's infinite perfections, but with the imagined greater flaws of others. His pride has made him bankrupt of genuine compassion and concern (James 2:13). He presumptuously errs in his prayer in that it is neither his duty nor his right as a sinner to point out another's sins. In trusting in Christ for righteousness, our inadequacies and guilt are revealed, and we become willing to admit that others may be much better than we are.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


 

Luke 18:11-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Pharisee glories in what he is ("I am not like other men"), what he does ("I fast twice a week"), and what he gives ("I give tithes of all that I possess"). Self is a prominent feature of his prayer—he uses the personal pronoun "I" five times—showing his great obsession with himself. He does not pray for others, and frankly, he has no interest in them other than to point out their faults. Not satisfied with commending himself, he disdains the tax collector as well, when he should have interceded for him before God. His prayer shows that he thinks of God as being impressed with pettiness and severity.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


 

Luke 18:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The publican and the multitude who repented at Peter's preaching felt the plague of sin, each in his own heart. This mourning springs from a conscience made tender and a heartfelt awareness of hostility toward God's will and personal rebellion against Him. It is grief expressed because one has become acutely aware that the morality he holds falls so far short of holiness that shame rises to the surface. One also feels this agony when he realizes that his personal behavior and attitudes have caused the death of his Creator and Savior.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Luke 18:13-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Justified means "to be declared righteous." The apostle Paul teaches that human beings are not justified by their works but by God's mercy—by grace (Titus 3:4-8). Our responsibilities in being justified are to humble ourselves in faith before God, repent of sin, and plead for His mercy and forgiveness. The Pharisee may not have been an extortioner, unjust, or an adulterer; he may not have overtly sinned as the tax collector did; and he may have fasted and tithed with greater dedication than most—but none of his good works could justify him (Romans 3:27-28; 4:1-3).

It is much less humiliating to humble ourselves than it is to be humbled by others. The tax collector humbles himself before God, pleading for mercy, and in the end, he receives exaltation. In Proverbs 27:2, Solomon expresses the principle of this parable: "Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips." This principle works in all facets of life, but most people cannot see it at work because they see no reward for humbly working behind the scenes. Godly principles at first seem contradictory to success, but they always work for the ultimate benefit of all. If we would be as concerned about our character as we are about being recognized for our achievements, we would be far more impressive to our Creator, whose gifts and rewards are unimaginable.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


 

Luke 23:39-41  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Malefactors is literally "evildoers," those who commit an offense against the law. We need to judge ourselves like this repentant malefactor did. Like him, we need to acknowledge our past sinful deeds. He demonstrated acknowledgment of his iniquity, not by his words alone, but by quietly accepting the punishment that he had brought upon himself by doing evil.

After admitting his own guilt and just punishment, the malefactor acknowledged Christ's guiltlessness and innocent suffering. Only then did he turn to the Savior for salvation in a manner reminiscent of the publican in the parable: "God be merciful to me a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). He did not ask Christ to take him off the cross and spare him his just punishment. He accepted it as just and fair, expressing repentance and faith in the Savior and in the message of a future resurrection to life!

Staff
Discerning Christ's Broken Body


 

John 5:39-40  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word "search" is ereuano in Greek, and means "to search, examine into." It can imply "to search by uncovering; to search minutely; to explore; to strip, to make bare; to search by feeling, by touch."

Homer, in The Iliad, used this word to indicate a lioness and her dedication to her cubs. They were lost, and she was on a huge plain searching very carefully everywhere. In The Odyssey, he used the same word to picture a dog tracking its prey - having its nose on the ground and never losing the scent.

Metaphorically, it can be used to describe one digging deep for treasure and precious metal, breaking every single clod that nothing would be missed. It means to shake and to sift until every meaning of every sentence, word, syllable, and even every letter may be known and understood.

Jesus is saying that these people search out every tiny, minute thing in striving for eternal life. But they were not willing to come to Him, humble themselves, and change so that they would have real, eternal life!

Can this happen to us today? Sure, it can! We see things that we are loathe to change in our lives, or we procrastinate. This is what Jesus is illustrating. Luke 18:9-14 gives us an example of a man who thought that he was doing wonderfully well. He probably knew more than the tax collector ever would. But the tax collector had the humility to humble himself before God and to repent.

John O. Reid
Don't Take God for Granted


 

1 John 2:15-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

I John 2:15-16 warns us not to love the world of Satan's creation because it is a huge reservoir of influences to the budding kernel of pride in each of us. It can lead us from that sin to others in order to accomplish our ambitions.

What other kinds of sin? The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector provides an example, showing how destructive it can be to relationships: "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess'" (Luke 18:11-12). Pride can make a person become condescending and self-righteous, so that he sees himself as greater than others, which can lead to misusing them.

At the same time, it blinded the Pharisee to his spiritual condition. Jeremiah 49:16 is spoken against Edom. "'Your fierceness has deceived you, the pride of your heart, O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, who hold the height of the hill! Though you make your nest as high as the eagle, I will bring you down from there,' says the LORD." One of pride's most destructive fruits is self-deception, blindness to one's own spiritual condition. It strongly tends to produce a sense of infallibility.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and Human Pride


 

Revelation 3:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

How close this is in principle to what the Pharisee says in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14)! Oblivious to his spiritual poverty, the Pharisee chooses to compare himself to humans he can see rather than the holy God to whom he supposedly prays in faith. Notice also his conceit in listing his wonderful works of tithing and fasting!

Though the Laodicean is indifferent, lackadaisical, and inconsistent in his devotion to God, his ignorance of his spiritual condition reveals a fundamental flaw that undergirds his lukewarm condition and paralyzes his spiritual life. The Laodicean says he is rich, but Christ's revelation shatters that delusion. He completely misreads his spiritual condition! He thinks he is already complete, thus he is indifferent to growing and changing. So great is his conceit that it blinds him into saying he needs nothing!

This self-deception results in inconsistency in prayer and Bible Study and nonchalance in overcoming. Why do those exercises when he has no need? His relationship to Jesus Christ is distant and insipid. Would we want to be married to a person who could take us or leave us depending upon his momentary mood? No wonder Christ reacts so severely! The Laodicean's self-perceived "wealth" is a barrier to any meaningful relationship with Him (Proverbs 18:11).

A Laodicean is poor—really and truly poor—yet all the while thinking himself to be rich. He is unwilling to jettison anything, let alone everything in a whole-hearted search for God. Undoubtedly, he has knowledge about God and thinks this is the true religion, but it is plain that he does not know God. If he did, he would not be so blind to his poverty because he could compare himself to God's holiness, and his shortcomings would be exposed. He is intelligent, but he mistakes his intelligence for true wisdom. Christ may even have given him gifts for ministering to the church in some way, but he mistakenly judges them as grace toward salvation. He is blind yet has the light of God's truth in him—remember, this is written to converted people—but the light is turning to darkness. How great that darkness must be!

To be wretched describes life when everything one owns has been destroyed or plundered by war. Here it describes the Laodicean's spiritual destitution and pitiableness before God. He is being devastated in the spiritual war against Satan, even though to all outward appearances he may look well-clothed, well-fed, and vigorous in carrying out his daily, secular responsibilities.

How careful Christians must be in this time when the world and Satan are pressing their distractions upon us as never before! We cannot allow ourselves to be deluded into negligently or carelessly cheating ourselves out of so great salvation (Hebrews 2:1-3).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit


 

 




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