Summary: Jesus tells a parable about two men who go to the temple to pray: a Pharisee and a tax collector. They pray two very different prayers, and the parable concludes with Jesus declaring that the tax collector, who assumes a posture of contrition and prays a simple prayer asking for mercy, leaves the temple justified, or restored to a right relationship with God. The Pharisee, in his prayer, betrays his contempt for the tax collector. Because Luke’s Gospel treats Pharisees and tax collectors nearly as caricatures, interpreters often get sidetracked in efforts to determine what Jesus is up to in this parable. The parable’s main emphasis, however, falls on the depths of God’s mercy, which results in “justification” even for a tax collector, someone who betrays his own people for personal gain and to support the Roman occupiers. The parable warns that our contempt for others whom we may see as villains does not square with the extravagant grace that God pours out on all who ask for mercy.
I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage. Read the commentary at Working Preacher.
Other People’s Prayers (Luke 18:9-14)
Summary: The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector should make religious people wary of our tendency to misunderstand and to limit the mercy of God. The parable lets us listen in on two different prayers. We may be quick to dismiss the Pharisee’s prayer, just like the Pharisee is quick to dismiss the tax collector. It’s a good thing we are not responsible for assessing the prayers of others. That’s God’s work. Our work is to tell others that God is merciful and that no one stands outside of the reach of that divine mercy.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Luke 18:9-14. It was originally a guest contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary
gospel of luke luke 18:9-14 mercy parables pharisee prayer preaching sermon tax collector