The Parables of Christ – Pharisee And The Tax Collector

The Pharisee And The Tax Collector (Lk 18:9-14) 


1. We’ve noted that in Luke 18, there are two parables that deal with the subject of prayer… 

a. “The Persistent Widow”Lk 18:1-8

b. “The Pharisee And The Tax Collector”Lk 18:9-14

2. In “The Persistent Widow”

a. Jesus encouraged us to “pray and not lose heart” Lk 18:1

b. He taught the value of persevering in prayer

3. In the parable before us now, “The Pharisee And The Tax-Collector”

a. Jesus illustrated the spirit that ought to pervade our prayers

b. He teaches us how and in what manner we ought to pray to be heard by God – Lk 18:14

Without the proper spirit, our perseverance in prayer will be for nothing.

This second parable on prayer is therefore very important, and worthy of our consideration

Let’s begin by reading the parable.

Luke 18:9-14

9* ¶ And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:

10* “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

11* “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

12* ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

13* “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

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.”



1. They both go to the temple to pray – Lk 18:10

2. One is a Pharisee, the other a tax-collector

a. Pharisees were a religious sect, noted for their strict observance of the Law and the traditions of the elders

b. Tax-collectors were consider by the Pharisees to be extortioners and traitors

1) Extortioners, because they collected more than was required, for personal gain

2) Traitors, because while Jews they represented an occupying power (Rome)


1. The prayer of the Pharisee – Lk 18:11-12

a. He thanks God that he is not like others

1) Especially extortioners, unjust, adulterers

2) or even the tax collector nearby — Thus he reveals his disdain for others – cf.   Lk 18:9

b. He recounts his good deeds

1) “I fast twice a week” – the Law required only an annual fast – Lev 16:29

2) “I give tithes of all that I possess.” – The Law required only a tithe on certain items; this man gave tithes on ALL he possessed – cf. Deu 14:22-23 – Thus he reveals how he trusted in his self-  righteousness – cf. Lk 18:9

2. The prayer of the tax collector – Lk 18:13

a. He expressed his repentance and humility in what he did

1) He stood “afar off”

2) He would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven (a common posture for prayer at that time)

3) He beat his breast in anguish over his sins

b. He expressed his repentance and humility in what he said

1) Calling himself a sinner

2) Pleading God for mercy


1. The tax collector goes home “justified” – Lk 18:14a 

a. The term as used in the forensic sense means “not guilty!”

b. He had received that wonderful blessedness described by David – cf. Ps 32:1-2

2. The Pharisee also goes home . . . with nothing!

a. He might as well stayed home

b. The most he might have gotten was the reward of being seen by men – cf. Mt 6:5

[The meaning and purpose of this parable are very clear, both from the introductory statement by Jesus in Lk 18:9, and the concluding remark in Lk 18:14

“for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

But to reinforce the point, here are a few thoughts relating to…]



1. The Pharisee trusted in his own good works, but it was to no avail

2. He should have recalled the words of Isaiah – cf.

Isaiah 64:6

6 ¶ For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

3. We should remember the words of Jesus and Paul – for example: 

Lk 17:10

10* “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

Eph. 2:8-10

8* For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

9* not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

10* For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Titus 3:3-5

3* For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.

4* But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,

5* He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,


1. The Pharisee despised others, including the tax collector

2. He should have recalled the words of Solomon –

Prov. 8:13

13 “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.

Prov. 16:18

18 ¶ Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.

Prov. 29:23

23 ¶ A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.

3. We should remember the words of Jesus and  James –

Luke 14:11

11* “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Ja 2:1-9

2:1* ¶ My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

2* For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,

3* and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,”

4* have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

5* Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

6* But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?

7* Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

8* ¶ If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well.

9* But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.


1. He had taught the value of humility before others in the parable of “Taking The Lowest Place”Lk 14:7-11

2. Now He teaches the value of humility before God!

a. An important principle espoused in Isaiah –

Isaiah 66:1-2

66:1 ¶ Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?

2 “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

b. And extolled by Mary His mother in “The Magnificat” – cf. Lk 1:46-55


1. In this parable of “The Pharisee And The Tax Collector”, we have seen…

a. The Pharisee prayed as one who needed no forgiveness, and got none

b. The tax collector prayed as one needed forgiveness, and he received it

2. Do we need forgiveness, even as Jesus’ disciples?

a. Of course we do! – cf.

1 Jn 1:8-10

8* ¶ If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

9* If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

10* If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

b. Then let us pray with the humility of the tax collector, who prayed like the man after God’s own heart (David)…

Psalm 51:1-3

1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.

Let us not trust in our own righteousness, but in the mercy and loving kindness of God offered so abundantly in His Son Jesus Christ!  As the beloved disciple wrote in his first epistle:

1 Jn. 2:1-2

2:1* ¶ My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

2* and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

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