Turning many to righteousness #5. “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”

Turning many to righteousness #5. “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”

As far as many Jews were concerned, a tax collector was just a ‘Resident Samaritan.’ And it was because of this built in prejudice that Jesus used a Tax Collector and a Samaritan as the godly characters in two of his parables.

In The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus openly presented The Pharisee as the ungodly character. In doing so, we can easily imagine the rage of the local Pharisees as Jesus wrote them off as nothing but self-righteous before God and man alike. By contrast, Jesus’ Tax Collector was humble and penitent:

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner’” (Luke 18:13NLT).

When the spotlight shines on the sin of someone else, it is easy to suddenly become holier than thou. Afterall, it isn’t every day that we are made to look so good by the shortcomings of others. But the Pharisees took it to another level. They branded all Tax Collectors as sinners and all Pharisees as non-sinners. To highlight their self-righteousness Jesus puts this prayer in his Pharisee’s mouth:

“‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12).

Jesus knew that as far as the Pharisees were concerned, everyone needed to repent but them. Thus, because of their impenitent hearts, Jesus said:

“I tell you, this Tax Collector went to his house justified rather than the Pharisee; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).


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