Two men went to the temple to pray. One was arrogant. One wasn’t.
The first man was highly respected. He was devoted to obeying the law of Moses as perfectly as humanly possible. His whole hearted devotion caused others to hold him in high regard.
The second man was a traitor. He was thought to be crooked and unscrupulous and as such he was anathema to his people. He was despised.
The first man devolved into self-righteousness. He thought way too much of himself and way too little of others. He believed himself superior and allowed the adulation of “lesser” people to go to his head.
The other man was a terrible sinner and lived out of harmony with others. The subsequent ridicule and isolation ultimately brought him to his knees. In his brokenness, he found humility. He knew he wasn’t better than anyone. He didn’t try to be.
Just imagine that you are walking down a street and come upon the first man. Dressed in his religious finery, you recognize him as someone respected by the people and you have a sense of being blessed for having come close to him.
As you go, you come upon the second man and immediately know he is someone to be shunned. You quickly cross to the other side of the street, averting your eyes, and wanting no contact of any kind with him.
What You Didn’t Know
What you didn’t know is that both men were on their way to the temple to pray. On arrival, the first man prayed a self-righteous prayer, expecting God to reward his moral excellence. He even thanked God that he was better than other men, even mentioning the second man who was there in the temple.
When the second man prayed, he didn’t compare himself to others, he didn’t thank God that he was better. In his brokenness, he lowered his head and begged God for his mercy, for he knew that he was a sinner and only God can forgive.
As They Left
As they left the temple, which man do you think God blessed?
Well, it wasn’t the Pharisee, for he was proud, arrogant, and self-righteous. No, in the parable of Luke 18, it was the second man who was blessed, the Jewish man employed by Rome to collect taxes from his people. It seems counter intuitive that the abject sinner was blessed instead of the celebrated clergyman. But he was. The heart matters.
Be honest, as you passed each of them in the street, were you more like the Pharisee or more like the tax collector?
Just a thought.