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Bible Story: The Pharisee and the Publican

Updated on January 1, 2011

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Christians and Sinners come in all shapes and sizes. Here's a whole family of sinners. Photo by HubCrafter.
Christians and Sinners come in all shapes and sizes. Here's a whole family of sinners. Photo by HubCrafter.

The Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18: 9-14)

Now we know that a parable is a story told to illustrate a truth.

Jesus used this method many times. Most often, He was showing His listeners some important moral lesson. His parables truly have helped many people see themselves in a new light. The parable is really a way to get the listener to move their focus away from "the other guy's faults" and back where it belongs...on our own shortcomings.

(Luke 18:9) And (Jesus) spoke this parable to certain (people) who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Looking at verse 9 (above), Jesus is speaking to certain people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. They did not trust God to judge their righteousness...they trusted themselves. And as the close of the verse shows...when we trust ourselves to judge...the result is...we "despise others".

Not you, or me, of course. This lesson is for someone else. I do all kinds of good things. So, obviously Jesus is talking about....hmmm. What IS He talking about? ...something about righteousness?

Is that like ...having the "right" to judge others..because I'm so good and all? That makes me righteous..being good. Not like those scum...the "bad" people.

Well, I'm glad I'm a Christian. Now I can look down on those sinners!

Here's Mom and Grandma. Grandma found Christ at this age. Mom? Found a reason to judge others. Photo by HubCrafter.
Here's Mom and Grandma. Grandma found Christ at this age. Mom? Found a reason to judge others. Photo by HubCrafter.

A Story About Judging Others

Did you notice how much of this chapter and the last one too...Jesus has really been hammering away at...judging. It's story after story. I heard (somewhere) that when things get repeated three must be important. So what does it mean when Jesus repeats it MORE than three times?

Probably that I'm such a bad hearer He has to keep on telling me, over and over and

(verse 10) Two men went up into the Temple to pray: one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

Verse 10 starts the parable. Two men go to pray. One guy is a born again Christian, The other one is some slob who sneaked un-believer.

Huh? What? It doesn't say born-again? My bad. It's just some religious guy from two thousand years ago. sorry. He's safe to blame. He's dead.

Hmm. Got any Pharisees in the neighborhood? Publicans? No? Me neither. So let's just skip this story. 'cuz people like this are dead and gone, right?

No? You got hypocrites at your church? Wow. There's mean religious people at your church, really? Horrors. There's mean, judgemental religious hypocrites on HubPages? No! Say it ain't so!

Maybe the parable is about hypocrites and judging people who aren't as "religious" as we are.

I'm trying to be good. What more does God want from me? Photo by HubCrafter.
I'm trying to be good. What more does God want from me? Photo by HubCrafter.

Getting Noticed for Jesus

Tell me something. How are you going to know the good guys..from the bad guys? Right! what they DO! So, if he does good..he's good. And if he does bad..duh!?! He's bad. We got the whole good tree/good fruit...bad tree/bad fruit thing. That's it. Done. Let's move on.

So...why is Jesus making this so hard? If the good people are the bad people...ya gotta help me. Whassup?

(Luke 18: verse 11)

The Pharisee stood and prayed like this to himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not like like other men are; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even this publican. (verse 12) I fast twice a week, I give tithes of everything I own.

Religion...that's man's method of doing. That's "godly, goodly" stuff. It's a fake, a's a three dollar bill.

Religion is so turns good into bad. Religion gives you this perfect teflon coating..doing good just makes sin slide right off... and the blame? ..plops on that guy..over there.

This religious guy is praying to himself.

Hey God..thanks for making me handsome and I'm glad my kids got my looks and my wife really fits in with people, me too. Man, this is great. Thanks. I earned it, really. But, you gotta give credit to whom it's due, right? We are so into doing good...we deserve some credit. And we're really grateful that you, God, notice our work. Other people do too and that's what it's all about. Getting noticed for Jesus, right?

P.S. God, I'm really thankful I'm not like that guy in my church...over there. I can see he's just a really lousy Christian or worse..he's not even a Christian! What a scumbag!

Sin just ruins everything. It engulfs our lives and damages everything it touches. Photo by HubCrafter.
Sin just ruins everything. It engulfs our lives and damages everything it touches. Photo by HubCrafter.

When Sin gets the Spotlight

Do you ever feel like there's this spotlight on your life..and everybody, including God, can see your sins?

(verse 13) And the publican, standing away from the rest, wouldn't even look up toward heaven, but pounded against his chest, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Sin is so just gums up everything. Pretty soon, things that used to be great...seem to go to mush. Everything seems to irritate and make you mad. Or sins that you thought were long behind you, seem to crop up again. It's a shame that sin has gotta be this way. Sin really seems to mess with.... everybody ...Christians included.

Did you ever notice the bummed-out people at church? They wouldn't crack a smile if their life depended on it. Why can't they just be happy?

God loves you! He's willing to forgive. He's even willing to offer His mercy. Especially when you hate your own sin.

Righteousness is a gift from God. I didn't "earn" being two years old. But I got cake! Photo by HubCrafter.
Righteousness is a gift from God. I didn't "earn" being two years old. But I got cake! Photo by HubCrafter.

A Clay Pot in the Furnace

It seems that when we notice our own sin and feel the shame of it...then we come to God. Tears burn down our cheeks, our heads are heavy,our knees are weak...confessing our sinful ways.

(verse 14) I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: because everyone who exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.

This is when our loving Father looks down on us; and with a gentle smile, he encircles us in a loving grasp.

Come closer now. And let us reason together, God says. And I will turn your sins..though they be like scarlet...they shall be white as wool.

When we fall all the way off our high horse... When sin rules over us like a river in flood...God hear our cry. Lord, have mercy on me...a sinner.

If my people (believers) will hear my voice...and humble themselves.. then I will heal their land.

It is not God's intention to leave us in our sin and in our shame. His way is to restore make us whole. The only way to holiness is by confessing our sins.

There is a way, which seems right to a man..but that way..ends in death.

There is another way. It is a path the meek will choose. A better way, where God will lift up the downcast and raise up the humble man and set him on high. But we don't have to wait for this great upswelling of love from God. He already knows us. And by His great lovingkindness He has set us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. It is more than we deserve. It is the gift He offers to the ones who bow down...acknowledging that only holy, pure and righteous.

We have the shadow of this righteousness in clay pots firing in His furnace. Not to harm but to make the glaze more durable. Not to break but to make us stronger, more pure. We are the work of His hands and not of ourselves...lest any man ..should boast.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      I like the way you think. You have given us some food for thought. Thank you.

    • HubCrafter profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Arizona



      There is a target. With a bullseye.

      God says...shoot...and hit the target.

      Then you will be righteous.

      So..we, I, you..Everyman: we take our best shot.

      ...can't reach the target.

      Try again. The arrow isn't even close.

      No matter how hard I try...I can't do it.

      And..I Really want to!

      To hit the target..that's what God demands of us.

      None of us can do it.

      Is it unfair for God to demand it?

      Sme think it is. Many, me included, think it makes perfect sense.

      The target? live without any sin.

      There's never been a second of my existence when I could hit that target.

      So, is it an unfair demand?

      If you think you can or could ..or even Should be able to hit that might think it's possible.

      Personally, I don't think anyone Can live a sinless life..not even an hour goes by... without sin...a thought, a judging glance, am improper desire, ingratitude...most all sin goes back to selfishness; and all selfishness is based on pride; and the greatest sin of pride is to want to take God's place..have His power, HIs rights, responsibilities..His Throne.

      So, my most concise and honest answer to your comment...


    • onegoodwoman profile image


      7 years ago from A small southern town

      There is a bit of Cain, and the Pharisee in every single one of us.

      There is not a one of us who has not disobeyed, or Judged.

      We failed....we made the sacrifice necessary, and we are still failing today.........EACH one of us, even the meek and the poor of spirit.

    • HubCrafter profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Arizona

      Hi maggs:

      Welcome to the Club, my friend.

      God is gracious and so very patient with us. Like a GrandParent, He waits for us to mature; to grow up; to face our responsibilities to others; to set aside our own selfish ways and see the need of the one beside us.

      None of this "work"; this loving work, can begin until we first give up our own ways....our ways of judging others, mocking their weaknesses, pointing out their faults and failures, ridiculing their attempts, counting their excuses.

      In short, we judge them...for all the things we do ourselves.

      I'm not writing to teach you anything, maggs. By your own confession, I hear that you are actively watching your own behaviour. Your own conscience will work to guide you..perhaps to change you into someone more like Jesus Christ..a little less like the old maggs.

      I think of it like God's teeter-totter. Most of the time it's about me, me me. I'm way up high. God is silent and sitting way down low.

      But then I get some sense of my own sinfulness. It brings me back to earth. And I totter down to earth. God is raised up. I can see Him so much better now. It's not so much about me, my trouble, my desires, my plans. It's about God. It's about His love. Then it becomes so clear. It's about the people around me, their need.

      Their time will come, when the teeter-totter falls.

      It's not up to me to choose when it falls for someone else. It just falls for me, to see my own faults, to find my place is down here..on earth...not so much in heaven, not so much in charge, not so much doing God's job.

      "It is appointed to a man once to die and then the judgement."

      When Jesus came to live among us on this earth; He did not come to judge...but to forgive. The woman caught in adultery was certainly guilty. But Jesus set her free with the words, "Go. And sin no more." This is grace. God giving mercy where none is due. Why? Because He would rather WE were merciful than just. Because we...are weak, we need time and God's patience to be changed, to complete our many repentances, to learn to walk have this truth written in our hearts.

    • maggs224 profile image


      7 years ago from Sunny Spain

      I had been facing the fact that I had been a bit self-righteous over judging the actions of some one and so I was already primed when I saw this Hub. Your Hub was the confirmation and correction that I needed. Thanks

    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 

      8 years ago

      This was the best thing I've read this morning; I think I'll stop here. Puts a great perspective on the day. Thank you for this! Kaie

    • HubCrafter profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona

      Yes. Jesus...first, last and always.

      He is the reason for our hope...the reason for our faith. Apart from Jesus Christ there is no redemption, no claim to heaven's door. His love makes all things possible. His work makes heaven and the forgiveness of our sins possible.

      Under heaven and earth there is no name above the name of Jesus. Praise God all ye creatures, great and small; our King lives forevermore. Bow down and kiss the earth all ye nations. Bow down and call His name. Wonderful.

    • John Cain profile image

      John Cain 

      8 years ago from Dayton, Texas

      Thanks for the wise words of hope. With Jesus, it was love from day one to the final breath. God bless you.

    • HubCrafter profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona

      Thankyou heart, Rev and Dave.

      Jesus Christ is alive to us, to those who love Him, have listened when He caught us..lost and alone in our sins.

      He met me on a stage with rock music and singing. He called out to me and I heard my own silent thought..He (Jesus) didn't do anything wrong. And as the music grew louder..I began to cry.

      That song we sing sometimes...He touched reminds me of the day I was born again.

      Something...happened...and now, I know...He touched me..and whole.

      Praise His Name.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 

      8 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      Hub Crafter, thank you for drawing a line in the sand and showing the difference between being a follower of God and Jesus, compared to being a follower of some religion. I choose to follow God and Jesus, always!

      Brother Dave.

    • RevLady profile image


      8 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      Hubcrafter, Thank you for this honest and truthful hub that gave a great start to my morning. I also appreciated your comment to Gus.

      Blessings and peace dear brother in Christ Jesus.

      Forever His,

    • heart4theword profile image


      8 years ago from hub

      Yes, we were all born sinners, we all fall short of The Glory of God...if we are to try to be Righteous People on our own accord. I thank God, He made a way for forgiveness, and a way that we can be seen spotless without blemish, because of what Christ did. He made a way for each of us, to have a Spiritual Relationship with God. No need of animal sacrafice anymore! Great Hub:) Hubcrafter, liked your nostalgic pictures!

    • HubCrafter profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Arizona

      Hi Gus:

      Maybe. But when Jesus was dying on the cross He wasn't philosophizing....He was forgiving.

      "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do".

      I've often compared philosophy to table takes no courage to do either and both are commonplace after a hearty meal.

      Jesus expressed tremendous courage in the face of what the Roman world knew was the most horrible torture imaginable.

      He knew far in advance of His arrest that He must die a horrible death hanging from a Roman cross. Day after day, as the arrest drew near..Jesus lived with this knowledge.

      I would you or I know we were to die by this particular torture? Would we continue to follow the Father's plan? To the end?

      Jesus was no mere talker, philosopher, windbag....He was a real man. And He died horribly, courageously...saying, Father, forgive them.

      He's way past comparing to some philosopher.

      Jesus is God. Come down to our the form of a man. And He took our place..Karl Marx never did anything like that. Jesus died because I sinned, people sinned. We owe Him our thanks and our worship.

      Jesus proved who He His Life and by His Death. Jesus Christ is the Living God. He walked the earth and showed us by His own example...this is what God is really like. No religion. No hype. No donations. No none of the junk and the phony religion that is so common today.

      It was Jesus and the ones who He called to follow...Him.

      If there's a problem in what comes after..there's definitely people involved. Trying to turn Jesus into a religion. Religion is man's way. Jesus is God's way.

    • gusripper profile image


      8 years ago

      Dont forget that Jesus was also one of the greatest Philosophers ever existed in earth.


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