The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
The Pharisee & The Tax Collector
I must have read this particular Parable a thousand times over my lifetime and heard it in countless sermons. Yet just as God’s love comes fresh to us each day, this reading came new to me. That is the most precious thing about God’s word in the bible and, like his love, it is a living, dynamic experience.
The essence of a Parable is that it is a story with a message; usually arranged with objects, settings and phraseology that was easy for the listener to understand. However, for years I have failed to grasp the true essence of the passage. When I say that, I mean for me. God’s word is personal, but not private. Yet I have long made one big mistake with this story. The error that I’ve made is that Jesus was talking about somebody else. No! Reading it the other day I realised that I have been both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.
This passage was talking to me; asking me to examine myself and to realise when I have fallen into the trap of the former. How often have I judged others and felt myself superior to them. I will give you a simple example. Until recently I’ve been blessed with the joy of the local countryside surrounding my home. Yet as I walked I scorned those who have thoughtlessly cast their litter from a passing car window, littering the wayside. I would judge myself exactly as the Pharisees did; placing myself far from the gates of Heaven at that moment.
I spent quite a time in teaching until my recent retirement and, again, it was easy to judge others. But, at the same time I was given the opportunity to show God’s love as best I could. I never proclaimed or preached; yet many a child asked me, “Do you believe in God Sir?” I still hope and pray that it was the humility of the Tax Collector that shone during those days. Although it was all too easy to slip into ‘Pharisee’ mode. Now, in semi-retirement I offer help to people with certain addictions. Acting as a Pharisee I would only drive them away and destroy their hope. Thinking as a Tax Collector I am humbled and reminded that I am no better that anyone else. Thus Christ’s words become living and relevant. I suppose in many ways the passage is like the ‘speck of dirt and the plank of wood’ that Jesus speaks of. I am guilty of both. When I am humble he is able to enter my life and guide me. When I am arrogant and superior I am of no use to his kingdom
The passage is of powerful use to me personally and I hope to all. I must look carefully at my thoughts and actions… who am I today?