The Pharisees were held in high regard by the people. They were thought to be very religious and very righteous, and the Pharisees, themselves, agreed with this assessment. Tax collectors, on the other hand, were despised by the Jews, and deservedly so. They sold out to the oppressive Romans, collected taxes from their fellow Jews, and got rich by collecting more than was due. Jesus told a parable comparing these two. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector’” (Luke 18:11). The question, however, is not, “Am I as good as my neighbor?” The Pharisee was. In fact, he was better, “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:12). So the Pharisee, when he prayed, asked for nothing, and that is what he got.
Jesus continued, “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13). The question is, “Am I as good as God?” The tax collector is not, not even close. Neither, by the way, is the Pharisee, not even close. The tax collector would rather count on God being good than he being good, and when he prayed, asked for something, for mercy, and that is what he got.
Jesus, I live in a world that too often competes and compares, rather than love and lift up. Keep me from pride. Give me humility like You. I mean, You are God, and yet You think of others more than Yourself and sacrificed Your life fully for our sake. May I learn to love others like You do, rather than learning to serve self like the world does.
Jesus, be merciful to me, a sinner. Thank You for Your love, Your salvation.