from Worship Resources Year C: Beginning Advent 2009 up to Advent 2010, Live Generously, Love Courageously
The first verse of this passage is most telling. It indicates to whom Jesus is addressing the parable. We might call them self-righteous: they were convinced of their own goodness and superiority over others they deemed less worthy. Jesus has a lesson for them and for us.
Going up to the temple—the highest place in the city—to pray, was expected of all Jews. In this story, both men were doing their duty. However, we quickly see a great difference in their attitudes. Pharisees were known for the importance with which they held obedience to the law, most specifically their interpretation of what the law required. They prided themselves on how completely they adhered to the law’s provisions. The Pharisee began by expressing thanks that he was not like other people whom he saw as falling short of the law’s requirements. Then he reeled off a couple of what are likely his many accomplishments (fasting and tithing). So far, so good.
The story then moves quickly to the other pray-er, the tax collector, one who was despised by his fellow Jews, because he worked for the occupying Romans. His attitude stood in stark contrast to that of the Pharisee. The tax collector knew he had done wrong and was immediately contrite. He distanced himself from the Pharisee and assumed a humble posture, looking down. He pleaded for mercy and claimed himself as a sinner. But what had he done that caused him to see the need to confess? We are not told. Some think that tax collectors, as is inferred in the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8), usually took more from the people than they should and kept some for themselves.
Back to the Pharisee for a moment. He had obeyed the law and seemed to have done no wrong. Yet, in verse 14 we are told that it was the tax collector, not the Pharisee, who “went…home justified.” Typical of many of Jesus’ “reversal” parables, we are told that the humble will be exalted and the self-exalted made humble. But why?
One key to this parable, and a lesson for us today, may be in the way that the Pharisee’s attitude and judgment of others separated him from them. Jesus’ ministry was all about including others, especially the marginalized. The Pharisee’s attitude, on the other hand, was one of exclusion—despising all those he thought did not live up to his standards. This parable counsels against judging others as inferior, less spiritual, or further away from God than ourselves. When we justify ourselves by boasting of our righteousness, we actually move ourselves farther away from the justification that comes from God’s grace and God’s righteousness. We are all advised to follow the lead of the tax collector in this parable and humbly pray. In the words of today’s theme: “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”
We are the Arizona Mission Center of Community of Christ, nine congregations and hundreds of disciples across Arizona. Upcoming events, forms, and contact information are listed in the left column.
To find out information about our congregations in Arizona, use the "Congregation" tab at the top of the page. To find out more about our faith community, including our Basic Beliefs, Enduring Principles, Mission Initiatives, use the tab at the top "Who We Are."
The Arizona Mission Center ministry includes three teams: Adult Ministries, Young Adult Ministries, and Youth Ministries, with tabs for each across the top of the page.
Our ministry includes camps, retreats, and conferences at Whispering Pines Campground, Prescott. To find out more about the campground, including how it can host your event, check out the tab at the top. Thanks for visiting our website.