Gospel Picture #2: The Pharisee and the Tax Collector Part 1 – The Pharisee
Luke 18:9-14 August 15, 2004 Introduction Have you ever stopped to ponder for a few moments what you really think about yourself? I think for me personally, when I stop to ponder this, I come away guiltridden from the amount of self-righteousness that exists in my heart. As I told you two weeks ago, it is truly the plague of mankind. If you were to stop and ponder what you really think about yourself, you would find that more often than not, what you really think about yourself is measured against what you think about others. Believe it or not, our selfconception comes from how we conceive others. We construct a proper and improper behavioral standard in our hearts and minds and then we proceed to walk through life condemning or affirming others based on our behavioral standard. You can usually pick up on this if you are observing others’ conversations closely. They usually say things like: • • • • • Well, our family doesn’t… I make it a point not to… I’m glad I don’t… How can they say they are a Christian and… Well, at least I don’t…
2 The list of introductory phrases could go on and on. But what I want you to ponder for yourself is whether or not you talk like this. And if you’re quick to answer “no” then ask yourself whether or not you at least think like this. If you still answer “no” then I would challenge you that you are really self-deceived” and you above all people need the sermon this morning. But if you answer to yourself “yes” that you do talk and think like this, then you too need this sermon this morning. You need to hear about the righteousness of God and what it looks like in real life. You need to hear about it because God’s standard, not ours, is what we will all be condemned or affirmed by one day soon. Proposition There are two goals I am desiring to accomplish in the next two sermons, beginning this morning. The first has to do with you personally. I want to challenge you personally to examine your own heart and life to see whether or not you measure yourself and your family and your church by what others are saying, what other families are doing, or what other churches are doing. This is extremely important because if you continue to measure your own righteousness by others rather than by God’s, you are in for a heap of trouble in this life and in the next. But if you measure your self, your family and your church and everything else that is important to you, by the only standard in life which is God’s righteousness, then you are in good shape for the rest of this life and the next. The second goal I want to accomplish this morning has to do with us corporately. I want to challenge us as a body of believers with the application of God’s righteousness to us. You see, if we all establish God’s righteousness in our hearts and minds as the only standard by which we condemn or affirm others’ actions
3 and words, then we will experience deeper fellowship between ourselves. There will be an immensely deep fellowship because we will judge each other by the standard of righteousness which holds the atonement and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ as of primary importance. When we judge each other by each other, we will kill this church. But when we judge each other by God’s standard in Christ Jesus we will constantly breathe new and fresh air into this little body which will cause it to explode both in depth and in numbers. I want to accomplish both goals over the next two sermons by looking at another “Gospel Picture” as I called it two weeks ago. The last time I was with you we attempted to illustrate our biblical understanding of the righteousness of God with the life of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3. There we discovered that Paul’s main ambition in life was to count everything that was important from a human perspective as amounting to rubbish or dung. Who he was and what he accomplished in his life amounted to nothing more than handful of cigarette butts. Paul knew this well which is why he stated in verse 9 that he wanted nothing more than to be found having the righteousness of Jesus Christ rather than his own supposed righteousness. Paul knew that who he was and what he had accomplished amounted to nothing in the sight of God. The only thing God truly cares about is whether or not a person has His righteousness in the person of Jesus Christ. If a person offers his own righteousness to God, the result is eternal condemnation. But if a person offers nothing to God but His own Son, Jesus Christ, then the result is eternal life. Well, there is another “Gospel Picture” in Luke 18 that I want to paint for you this morning and next Lord’s Day. While many of us may never be able to relate to a model Christian like the apostle Paul, many of us will be able to
4 relate clearly to the two characters we will see in this passage – the Pharisee and the tax collector. I can guarantee all of you this morning that each of you will see yourself in the Pharisee and hopefully all of you will see yourself more so in the tax collector. This morning we will spend our time examining the life of the Pharisee. Next Lord’s Day, we will spend our time examining the life of the tax-collector. Both are important figures in the parable here, so I wanted to give a week to each figure to make sure we have time to properly examine ourselves in light of each one. Transition But before I get to the passage I want to tell you why I chose this particular passage. There are two reasons. 1. I chose the passage because of the connection of Greek words. If you’ll recall the previous sermon on the apostle Paul I made mention to you of a little Greek word in Philippians 3:3 – kaukaomai. There we saw Paul explaining what he could boast or brag about if human righteousness were all that really mattered. He used the word kaukaomai there to express the concept that he would rather delight in, rejoice in, and brag about the righteousness of God in the person of Christ above all else. We saw last time that the word itself was used in classical Greek to refer to pluming oneself, much like a peacock would strut its plume. It was further used in this time period to refer to one who would vaunt himself against someone else or treat them in a derogatory or contemptuous manner. I chose Luke 18:9 and following as my passage this morning because of what we find Luke writing in verse 9. He writes about a parable Jesus told
5 regarding “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and treated others with contempt.” This parable that follows, then, becomes a virtual word picture of kaukaomai…the kind of confidence in the flesh that Paul counted as loss and rubbish. The Pharisee becomes a picture of how the apostle Paul would have acted before conversion. The Pharisee trusted in his own righteousness, as did Paul before conversion, and he also treated others with contempt. That’s the first reason I chose this passage. 2. The second reason I chose the passage is because Jesus expressly told the parable in order to illustrate what true righteousness was. And that’s what I’m after in these two “Gospel Pictures.” I simply want to illustrate for you what false righteousness looks like and what true righteousness looks like. I’m doing this in order that you may measure your Christian experience by these real life images and come up with some solid conclusive answer regarding your own relationship with God.
The outline I offer you this morning is based on an exposition of the text so I trust you’ll follow along in the notes I’ve provided for you. I’m only going to provide two main points for you to consider this morning. Measure yourself – your life, your words, your conversations, your thoughts, your attitude, etc. – by these two points. 1. You have not embraced the gospel if you exalt in yourself. The Pharisee – vv. 11, 12 Let’s begin with verse 9, where Luke records the purpose of the parable. He writes there that the parable was written because there were those who
6 were trusting in their own righteousness and who were holding others in contempt. Then Jesus goes on to speak of a Pharisee, which obviously means that the Pharisees were an example, and a prima facie example at that, of those who trusted in themselves and held others in contempt. Let’s examine two important words in verse 9 and then examine some detail about why Jesus chose a Pharisee as a representative of self-righteousness and condemning spirit. a. Do you trust in your own righteousness? i. The word “trust” here is the perfect tense form of the Greek word peitho, which simply means “to be persuaded of, to seek favor or approval from, to reassure, to rely on, have confidence in, to be confident or sure.” One dictionary defines as “to be induced to believe” (Thayer). Key cross references are found back in Philippians 3:3,4 which we covered last time. In those two verses this word, peitho, is used twice. First in verse 3, Paul says, “we should put no confidence in the flesh.” This is what the Judaizers did and what Paul rebuked. This is what the Pharisee in Luke 18 is doing. We see him putting confidence in who he is and what he has accomplished. This same form of the Greek word in Luke 18:9 is also used in Philippians 1:25 where it means to be convinced of something. In Acts 5:39 another form (the aorist) of this word is used to mean “taking advice from.” In Acts 13:43 another form (the imperfect) is translated as “urge” and again in 27:11 it is translated as “listen.” The present tense form of peitho is translated in Rom. 2:8 (see also Gal. 5:7) as
refusing to obey the truth. fitting since Jews are subject.
7 This is especially
Now plug these into the statement, “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous” as Luke writes in 18:9. In short, there were many, the chief of whom were Pharisees, who were convinced of their own righteousness before God. They listened to themselves and to their fellow Pharisees, men of their own “stripe”, who affirmed them. They were fully convinced and persuaded that they were okay with God. This is what is so sad. It is impossible to change the mind of someone who only listens to themselves or to those with whom they agree. ii. Luke goes on to write that they “trusted in themselves that they were righteous…” The Greek word for “righteous” is the word dikaios. It means conforming to the standard, will or character of God; upright, good, just, innocent, faultless, guiltless, to be in a right relationship with God. To be approved or acceptable to God. Being in accordance with what God requires. Thayer says, “of those who seem to themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves on their virtues, whether real or imaginary… preeminently, of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God, and who therefore needs no rectification in heart or life…” These things are what the Pharisee believed about himself. Let me put it into perspective for you in terms of the Pharisees of today. This is most noticeable in people today who call
8 themselves Christians and act and think as if they do nothing wrong. When trying to confront them about wrongdoing, they explain it away, rationalize it or excuse it or blameshift. They show no sign or reflect in no way that they actually think about what they have done wrong or that they think at all with respect to them doing wrong. There’s no selfexamination, no questioning of self, no apologies, confessions, asking of forgiveness, etc. When a standard of behavior is held up to them, they change the standard, twist it to fit their misbehavior, or virtually ignore it yet all the while still clinging to the thought that they are Christians. Now ask yourself, “Am I thoroughly aware of and completely convinced of my unrighteousness before God? Or do I excuse myself when I do what is wrong? Do I rationalize it away when I am confronted with something I’ve done wrong? Do I look down on others because I don’t think they are as godly as I am? Do I think less of others because they don’t do what I think they should do? Do I always act in completely conformity to God’s will? Do I try to pretend like I am always in conformity to God’s will? Do I try to hide my failures and sins and mistakes from others so they won’t think less of me? Am I completely honest with God about how sinful I really am? Do I really view myself as sinful as God does? These are hugely important questions to ask yourself. Transition Now, with that in mind, let’s go a little further here and consider why Jesus chose a Pharisee for His parable. The reason why He chose a tax-collector are probably already self-evident, and I will go into this later. But for
9 now, let’s consider why He chose a Pharisee for His parable. I see two reasons thus far in my studies. b. Consider why Jesus chose a Pharisee for His parable. i. He chose them because of their childishness. They busied themselves with elaborate discussions, disputations, argumentation over the most trivial matters. For example, one scholar on ancient old and new testament times (Alfred Edersheim), records that a major controversy between the two schools of Pharisaism – the Hillel and Shammai schools – was whether a blessing should be said over the leaves and blossoms of a berry or just over the berry itself (Life and Times, Vol. 2, p. 206). They also had a controversy over “what blessing should be used when a dish consisted of various ingredients, some of the product of the earth, others, like honey, derived from the animal world.” Further, “the controversy was long and bitter between the schools of Shammai and Hillel, on such a point as whether the hands were to be washed before the cup was filled with wine, or after that, and where the towel was to be deposited” (p. 210). Edershiem goes on to write, “A religion which spent its energy on such trivialities must have lowered the moral tone. All the more that Jesus insisted so earnestly, as the substance of His Teaching, on that corruption of our nature which Judaism ignored, and on that spiritual purification which was needful for the reception of His doctrine, would He publicly and open set aside ordinances of man which diverted thoughts of purity into questions of the most childish character.”
10 Going further, the three goals in life that made a Pharisee distinct from all other Jews were (1) not to make use nor partake of anything that had not been tithed; (2) to observe the laws of purification; and (3) to abstain from getting too close to all those who were NOT Pharisees. On this last point, Emil Schurer, another scholar in the same field notes that just as an Israelite would avoid as far as possible a heathen or Gentile, so a Pharisee would avoid as much as possible a nonPharisee (Jewish Backgrounds, II, ii.24). That seems to be why Nicodemus came to visit Jesus at night in John 3. And that’s why the Pharisees hated Jesus so much, because was found frequenting the homes of sinners, Gentiles, prostitutes, and publicans (Mark 2:14-17; Matt. 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32). “Our Lord shows how Pharisaism, as regarded the outer, was connected with the opposite tendency as regarded the inner man; outward purification with ignorance of the need of that inward purity, which consisted in God-consecration, and with the neglect of it; strictness of outward tithing with ignorance and neglect of principle which underlay it, viz., the acknowledgement of God’s right over mind and heart…while, lastly, the Pharisaic pretence of separation and consequent claim to distinction, issued only in pride and self-assertion. Thus, tried by its own tests, Pharisaism terribly failed. It was hypocrisy...the concealment of what it was, and the pretension to what it was not. And the Pharisaism which pretended to the highest purity, was, really, the greatest impurity – the defilement of graves, only covered up, not to be seen of men!” (Edersheim, p. 212).
11 Does this sound like you? Are you one to quarrel with others over petty things? There is no end to the number of church splits which have occurred in church history over the most trivial and petty things. There is no end to the number of relationships that have been severed among Christians over petty things. Are you one of these Christians who gets caught up in pettiness and childishness when it comes to your relationship with God and others? ii. He chose them because of their hypocrisy. Schurer also made this statement: “they had the greatest influence upon the congregations, so that all acts of public worship, prayers, sacrifices were performed according to their injunctions.” He goes on to point out that, “This great influence actually exercised by the Pharisees is but the reverse side of the exclusive position which they took up. It was just because their requirements stretched so far, and because they only recognized as true Israelites those who observed them in their full strictness, that they had so imposing an effect on the multitude, who recognized in these exemplary saints their own ideal and their legitimate leaders” (p. 28). What he means is this. The Pharisees were especially good at stretching requirements very, very far by elevating all commandments, no matter great or small, to the same level and they further expected everyone to obey them. In reality, however, what they were accomplishing was an elaborate construction of hypocrisy, for their system allowed them to focus everyone’s attention on smaller matters of God’s law while neglecting the weightier matters.
12 Remember the man with the withered hand whom Jesus healed on the Sabbath. That was a perfect example of their hypocrisy. They taught that everyone should honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Then they made up additional rules and regulations that people ought to follow to make sure they don’t break the Sabbath command. And in their little contrived system, healing anyone was forbidden because it meant a breaking of the Sabbath day. But Jesus goes on to teach that mercy and love and acts of kindness and assistance on the Sabbath are not at all acts which violate the Sabbath command. Love is the supreme guide governing all the commands. So to neglect to love someone just so you can keep your own understanding of one of God’s commands is hypocrisy. It claims to be godly when in fact it largely ignores much of what God has said. This is what made Pharisees hypocrites, then: enforcing the Law of God but neglecting the parts of it they didn’t like so much. This is why it was to a Pharisee that Jesus said those famous words, “you must be born again” (John 3:3). Nicodemus, like all the other Pharisees, were so wrapped up in following the smaller, lighter matters of life that they missed the big picture called love. That’s why Jesus picked a Pharisee to illustrate His main point in this parable. And as far as you are concerned, what does your meter read on the hypocrisy scale? Do you get on to others when you do the same things (Rom. 2)? Do you condemn others in your heart for things they do when you do things that are just as bad, if not far worse? How often do you stop and consider your own sinfulness before pointing out the sinfulness of others? Do you take the telephone pole out of your own eye before
13 trying to help your friend take the speck of sawdust out of his eye (Matt. 7)? Transition Let’s look at little closer at this Pharisee fellow. The prayer life of a Pharisee really is one of the most remarkable things – remarkably arrogant that is. Listen to a couple of Pharisee prayers I found in my sermon preparation. They date from around the time of Jesus, and they show that the prayer we read by the Pharisee in Luke 18 was really nothing out of the ordinary. • “I thank thee, Jehovah my God, that thou hast assigned my lot with those who sit in the house of learning, and not with those who sit at street corners. For I rise early and they rise early: I rise early to study the words of the Torah, and they rise early to attend to things of no importance. I weary myself and they weary themselves: I weary myself and gain thereby, while they weary themselves without gaining anything. I run and they run: I run toward the life of the age to come, while they run toward the pit of destruction” (Hendrickson, Luke, p. 820). “I thank Thee, O Lord my God and God of my fathers, that Thou hast cast my lot among those who frequent the schools and synagogues, and not among those who attend the theatre and the circus. For, both I and they work and watch – I to inherit eternal life, they for their destruction” (Edersheim, Sketches, p. 32).
Given this evidence as to the nature of their normal prayer life, let’s look more closely at the Pharisee in Luke 18 whom Jesus uses as one of the two key figures in His parable.
14 iii. Where He Stands When Praying. When we compare where Jesus says the Pharisee is standing with where the tax collector is standing in verse 13, Jesus may be indicating that the Pharisee is standing as close as possible to actual sanctuary, with its Holy Place and the Holy of Holies (Hendrickson, Luke, p. 819). If this is so, then what arrogance he possesses! When Isaiah was in the very presence of God he feared for his life (Isa. 6). But not this Pharisee. He marches right up to temple, getting as close to the Holy of Holies that he can get and proceeds to pray without any inhibitions of his own sinfulness like Isaiah had. Now, while this is good conjecture about the meaning of the verse, I think there is a more probable reading of the Greek in verse 11. It has not so much to do with where the Pharisee was standing as much as how he was praying. iv. Whom He Addresses When Praying.
The text reads that he prayed “by himself.” This is from the Greek pros eauton which normally means to or about onself. These two Greek words when used together can never mean “by himself” in the sense of “alone.” The imperfect tense of the Greek verb for “praying” when used with the phrase pros eauton gives one of two nuances here, both of which highlight in different ways the principal point Jesus is making about the arrogance of the religious leader here. First, it could mean that he “prayed to himself,” but not necessarily silently. Or second, it could mean that he “prayed about himself,” with the
15 connotation that he prayed out loud, for all to hear. Since his prayer is really a review of his moral resume, directed both at advertising his own righteousness and exposing the perversion of the tax collector, whom he actually mentions in his prayer, the latter option seems preferable. If this is the case, then the Pharisee’s mention of God is really nothing more than a formality (from The NET Bible, p. 1861, n. 16). One pastor went on to point out that, “outwardly he addresses God, for he says, ‘O God.’ But inwardly and actually the man is talking about himself to himself…Moreover, having mentioned God once, he never refers to him again. Throughout his prayer the Pharisee is congratulating himself.” (Hendrickson, p. 819). His prayer starts out as thankgiving to God, but the prayer ends up not being about God but about himself. This leads me to the next point. v. What He Doesn’t Say in His Prayer. If you’ll notice, there’s no confession of sin anywhere. There is no mention that he has done anything wrong. There is no asking of forgiveness. There is no sense of guilt. “Now if he had any sense of the divine presence, would he not also have had a sense of guilt? See Isa. 6:1-5; Luke 5:8” (Hendrickson, p. 819). This is the surest sign of a Pharisee in my book. Anyone who does not acknowledge that they are a sinner or that they sin is self-deceived, as John taught in 1 John 1. vi. Who He Compares Himself To. Moving further, you’ll notice that the Pharisee compares himself not to other godly Jewish leaders
16 like Samuel or Simeon in Luke 2:25-32. Rather, he compares himself with those of a bad reputation. It is easy to think well of yourself because there is always someone who behaves worse than you do. But is this really the standard of judgment? The mark of a Christ-righteous person is one who compares himself to God first and then to other Christians, always thinking of himself as lower than they, and acting like it also. Pharisee ends up looking over while praying and probably spotting the publican, which is why he probably ends his prayer naming tax-collectors and talking about money. vii.What He Says in His Prayer. In verse 12 you’ll notice that the Pharisee congratulates himself on his fastidious and strict ceremonial lifestyle with regard to fasting and giving. Now, it seems the two facets of life with which Pharisees held to such rigorous rituals was eating and tithing. They treated every single meal they ate as an official ceremonial ritual feast. So it is not surprising to find Jesus addressing these two issues in His parable. • His fasting – the normal fast was refraining from food and drink for 24 hours, from sundown to sundown. It was often accompanied by refraining from sex and from wearing leather shoes. (Dictionary of Judaism, Neusner, “fasting” on p. 224). Jews only required to fast once a year according to Leviticus 16:29. He fasts twice a week. Probably on a Monday and Thursday.
17 His giving – Jews required to tithe only certain kinds of income. He tithed from all of his income. – See Deut. 14:22,23; Luke 11:42. Hastings (Dictionary of Christ and Gospels, 2:356), says, “In Luke 18:12 He illustrates how compliance with external requirements, especially when these are exceeded, as in the case of the Pharisees, and dissociated from the corresponding state of heart, breeds a culpable and overwhelming self-righteousness.”
What is it in your Christian life that you value so dearly? Is it how much you give? Is it how you pray? Is it what you pray? Is it the way you parent your children? Is it the version of the Bible you use? Is it your schooling preferences? Is it your denomination? Is it your denominational distinctives? Is it your theological system? The bottom line here is that the Pharisee’s prayer was all about himself. As I said before it was nothing but a congratulatory speech on what he loved most about himself. And while we may not go around talking or praying like this, we do think like this, don’t we? We do congratulate ourselves on who we are and what we have accomplished in life. We thank God for the blessings He has given us and then we thank Him that we are not like “so and so” who does this and that. His prayer acknowledged no sinfulness. It shows no understanding whatsoever of the fact that he does sin. If he did it would surely be with the terms “mistake” or “accident” or the like. But never would he view his sin with the utmost wretchedness as God views it. And we are no different, are we? How many of us truly feels the brunt of guilt as we should for the sins we commit? I admit that many times I have been oppressed by the guilt of my sin so much so that I grow depressed or discouraged. But I know this well – I know for a fact that
18 I do NOT know the heinousness and wickedness of my sin the way God does. Yet that is what I must seek as a Christian – to know the sinfulness of my sin. His prayer knew nothing about God. The Pharisee knew nothing of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, atonement because he had never experienced any of these things. He knew nothing of guilt because he had never experienced it as he should. He knew nothing of either because he knew nothing of God. To know God is to know sinfulness and forgiveness alike. It is to feel the weight of he depths sinfulness and to know the joys of the heights of forgiveness. The Pharisee evidences no knowledge of either. Do you? Conclusion Look at verse 9 once more. Notice there that the Pharisee is Jesus’ prime example of those who not only trust in themselves, in their own righteousness, but also treat others with contempt. This Greek word is exoutheneo which means to treat as nothing; to despise and count something as of no value or worthless; to reject or cast aside. Is this how you view others, beloved? Is this how you treat your spouse? Your children? Your neighbors? Your co-workers? Your employees? Do you compare yourself to others and then think little of them because they do not believe what you believe, go to church where you do, read the kind of books you read, spend their money the way you think a person should, drive the kind of cars you think they ought, live in the kind of houses you think Christians ought to live in, discipline their children the same way you do, etc.? It is so easy to allow our opinions and estimations of others be lessened and lowered bit by bit because they don’t “measure” up to the way we do things? It is easy
19 to look down on others, not thinking of them as spiritual as ourselves. This is the number one cause of church splits and fights – it is all about judging one another. We see the Pharisee doing it in Luke 18, we’ve seen it happen here in recent weeks, and we will continue to see it unless we kill the Pharisee within us. We must put to death the hypocrisy, childishness, pettiness, and selfrighteousness and look only to Jesus Christ and the righteousness He offers. How do you know if you are acting like this Pharisee? You’ll know it when you talk or think just like he does in verse 11. You’ll know you’re acting like a Pharisee or perhaps are a Pharisee when you say or think, “I’m glad I’m not like other men.” This is the manifestation of contempt for others. When you say to yourself that you’re glad you’re not like them for whatever reason, you are acting like a Pharisee. In closing, perhaps you’ve even said throughout this sermon, I’m glad I’m not like that Pharisee in Luke 18! If so, then you are that Pharisee! The challenge to you is simply this: examine your life to see whether or not you have truly met the Lord Jesus Christ because if you have, you would talk more like the tax-collector than the Pharisee. Which one are you at this very moment? Since all of us act like the Pharisee from time to time, perhaps your resolution this morning is to put him to death within your heart – resolving only to think of yourselves and others as sinners saved by grace, as saying “there, but for the grace of God, would I have gone.” But perhaps some of you act like the Pharisee all the time. Perhaps you are so self-deceived that you take no thought for your own sinfulness and self-righteousness. The warning for you this very moment is to beware of God’s judgment. The Bible clearly teaches that
20 destruction comes the swiftest and the hardest on the prideful. Repent from your self-righteous pride this morning and ask God to help you see yourself for who you really are. Ask Him to help you see yourself as He sees you. Let’s stand together and prayer towards these ends.