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Sermon October 23 2022

Lectionary 30 C 2022 The Parable of the Pharisee

& the Tax Collector

Luke 18:9-14


Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Today Jesus tells us a parable concerning a Pharisee and a tax collector who went up to the temple to pray.  And to fully understand the parable I think we must first take a closer look at each of these gentlemen. 

First, we have the Pharisee, a man whom we do not usually look favorably upon when we read scripture.  But upon second glance, we must note that this man does share ten percent of his income.  The man is indeed generous.  Which leads us to ask: “How much do we give to the church?”  

Early next year Calvary Lutheran Church will host consecration Sunday, and we will ask you to review what you give to the church and ask that you take a step up in your financial support for the congregation.  Don’t be scared.  The program will be painless.  You will hear more about the program early in the new year.   

But not only did the Pharisee give one tenth of his income, we are told that the man fasted twice a week.  Just imagine if you fasted twice a week.  It is not an easy thing to do.  I personally enjoy eating food, each and every day.  And so, I have to commend the man for his efforts.  

So, what fault has this man committed that Jesus would use him as an example for us to avoid?  Upon closer examination we find that this man had cut himself off from other people.  And his words highlight his contempt of other people.  

The man judges’ other people and belittles them.  Listen to his prayer again.  “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” 

The man depreciates other people, and they become the background from which he tells the world how glorious he is.  The man is self-centered, and he feels that he does not need the support of other people.  And he also thinks that he does not need God either, because he is, after all, the center of his universe. 

In his prayer the Pharisee asks for nothing, and he receives nothing.  The Pharisee sort of reminds me of the song “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble.”  You know the words. 

“Oh Lord it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way. I can't wait to look in the mirror ‘cause I get better looking each day. To know me is to love me I must be a hell of a man. Oh Lord it's hard to be humble but I'm doing the best that I can.” 

The man may be perfect in his eyes, but he has forgotten that it is a sin to despise and put down other people.  Proverbs 14:21 explains it well.  The verse reads: “It is a sin to despise one's neighbor but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.” 

The Pharisee has forgotten that he was/is as much a sinner as the next person.  

Now let us turn to the tax collector.  As you can see, the man was not perfect. In fact, he was a crook.  And the man knows that he is a rat because he cooperates with the Romans.  And he is fully aware that his fellow Jews do not accept people who cooperate with the Roman Empire. 

The man collects taxes.  And he keeps some of taxes that he collects for himself.  That was part of the deal he made with the Romans.  I can picture in my mind people running away from him when he walked down the street.  

And yet his prayer stems from a situation of humbleness.  His prayer has a seal of humility.  He has stripped himself of self-delusion.  He is truthful.  He is aware that he is a sinful man.  And he judges himself. 

While standing far off, looking down, he places himself under the watchful eyes of God and asks for forgiveness.  He prays “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”  Luke 18:13 

The tax collector places his future in God’s hands.  And in doing so, the tax collector received a grace that purified him.  And the tax collector finds himself upright in God’s sight. 

You know, the problem with the Pharisee was not that he fasted or gave a tenth of his income.  The problem was not that he was a thief or an adulterer.  No, the problem was the Pharisee lacked humility and that he refused to see and acknowledge that he was/is as much a sinner as the people whom he despised. 

Further, he refused to trust God.  And he thought his goodness exempted him from any need for God.  The tax collector knew he was/is a sinner.  And he threw himself on the mercy of God.  And when all was said and done, it was the tax collector, not the Pharisee, who went home justified and at peace with God. 

And the point being, it is not our goodness that reconciles us to God.  It is God who does the reconciling.  If we confess our sins, and acknowledge our short comings, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

Jesus told this parable to remind us that all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. 

  Let us therefore humble ourselves before God and give thanks for the salvation God has prepared for us through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

Let us pray: Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who ask for forgiveness.  Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may obtain from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.