Parables of Jesus: 2 Prayers
A man goes to the supply store and buys 300 chicks. He tells the owner, “I’m going to start a chicken farm!”
A couple of weeks later he returns and buys 300 more. The owner thinks it’s weird but doesn’t ask any questions.
Another couple of weeks later he returns to make the same purchase. At this point the owner is baffled and asks, “Why do you come back every couple of weeks and make the same purchase?”
The would-be farmer replies, “Well, I must be doin’ somethin’ wrong. I’m either planting them too deep or too close together.”
Today we continue on our series of the parables of Jesus.
This is most likely a familiar parable to many of you.
I titled the message 2 Prayers. It’s the one about the Pharisee and the tax collector who both prayed outside the temple. I gave the message this title because it has two meanings. There are two people praying – 2 pray-ers
And they each voice a prayer.
Let’s begin by looking at the reputation of each man.
Reputation is how others view you. It’s not always correct, but it’s their perception of who you are.
Reputation of Pharisee
The Pharisee would have been well known for being righteous. He would never think of cheating or stealing from someone.
He would have been known for following the law and observing all the commands that God had given. He tithed more than was expected and fasted more frequently than was required.
He would have been well thought of by others.
I’m telling you this because today when we hear the name Pharisee we think of a self-righteous, arrogant person who is judgmental of others.
Today we associate Pharisees with judgment and legalism. Malcolm Tolbert wrote this in the Broadman Bible Commentary, “The problem with legalism is that it defines righteousness in such a way that it is attainable by men.” That makes it works based rather than faith based. We know the Bible tells us that we are saved by grace through faith so that no one can boast.
Reputation of the Tax Collector
The tax collector, on the other hand, would have been viewed with much contempt. Tax collectors were despised by Jews because they did the work of the Romans by collecting taxes. They often collected more than was required in order to pad their own pockets.
Most, if not all, were thieves. They didn’t have a good reputation among men.
As I said earlier, reputation is not always correct, it can be distorted and incorrect. It’s how others see us.
But, as we know from the story of David, outward appearances are less important than our inward attitude.
God is not concerned with our reputation as much as He is with our attitude and the condition of our heart. “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b
With that in mind, let’s look at the attitude of each man
Attitude of the Pharisee
Notice how his prayer begins, God thank you that I’m not like other people, especially this tax collector. He also names some other people that he sees as beneath him, like swindlers, the unjust, adulterers etc.
His prayer isn’t for others, it’s about others.
We shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others when we pray, we should be praying for God’s blessings on them.
Did you notice how Jesus said the Pharisee stood and was praying to himself. Prayer isn’t supposed to be a monologue to God. It’s intended to be a dialogue.
The Pharisee listed all of his accomplishments to God.
He fasted more often than required and gave a tithe of all he had. He gave over and above what the law required.
Prayer is no place for us to be bragging to God. David understood that as he penned many of the Psalms. He asked God to search his heart and see if there was any impure way in him. He also asked God to create a clean heart in him and renew his spirit. Prayer is our opportunity to thank God and worship Him, not tell Him how great we are. He already knows us inside and out.
Now, let’s examine the
Attitude of the Tax Collector
The tax collector stood some distance away from the temple and wouldn’t even look up to heaven.
He understood the gravity of his sin and his need to be forgiven.
He also had an attitude of
Repentance and Reverence
He beat his breast and called himself a sinner
He asked for God’s mercy not because he deserved it, but because he knew he needed it.
Notice the irony here.
The one who on the surface appeared to be the more righteous man was judgmental and prideful and didn’t recognize those as sins.
The one who lived a life of sin understood it and turned from it asking for God’s mercy and grace.
Jesus wraps up this short parable in v.14
“I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
This parable was taught by Jesus because it was important for His audience but also it was preserved for us so that we don’t get caught in that same way of thinking. All too often we read Bible stories and poke fun at the characters because we would never do something like that…but how many times do we find ourselves behaving in much the same way as the Pharisee?
There are two points of application from out text this morning
We must Maintain a proper view of ourselves in relation to God.
When we allow ourselves to be overtaken with pride, God will humble us. But, when we stay humble and remember how great God is He will exalt us at the proper time. The thing that matters most is that we are in a right relationship with God and we can only have that when we believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him to save us and forgive us from our sin.
We must also Keep our Attitude in Check
Jesus lived a life of humility giving us the perfect model to follow. He treated others better than they deserve and served others as He led them.
We also ought to show reverence as we approach the throne of grace. We should not take our conversation with God lightly or disrespectfully. It’s a conversation not a monologue.