The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
To some who were confident of their own righteousness (I don’t think I’m a bad person) and looked down on everyone else,Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ (I don’t think I’m a bad person)
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (The one who has nothing to offer to God-no self-righteousness)
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
This parable is rich with truth about the doctrine of justification by faith. It illustrates perfectly how a sinner who is utterly devoid of personal righteousness may be declared righteous before God instantaneously through an act of repentant faith. The parable is addressed to Pharisees who trusted their own righteousness (vv. 10–11). Such confidence in one’s inherent righteousness is a damning hope (Rom. 10:3; Phil. 3:9), because human righteousness—even the righteousness of the most fastidious Pharisee—falls short of the divine standard (Matt. 5:48). Scripture consistently teaches that sinners are justified when God’s perfect righteousness is imputed to their account (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:4–5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:4–9)—and it was only on that basis that this tax collector (or anyone else) could be saved.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
All our righteous acts are considered filthy rags. And these people had an illusion of their own self-righteousness. They told themselves, “I’m not a bad person.”
There is not one person whose heart (in themselves) is good enough to earn their way to heaven. We only are made righteous and meet the requirements through Christ alone! May true humility be stamped upon our hearts.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. May we only boast in what Christ has done and not in anything we are doing in our own flesh. (I’m not a bad person, I go to church, attend Bible Study, don’t drink, tithe a lot of money, am nice to people etc.)
To wash and dress a corpse is a far different thing from making it alive: man can do the one, God alone can do the other. —Spurgeon
We are nothing without Christ. Nothing! Our hearts are wicked. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Christ is the only Hope we have for redemption.
Those who trust to their own righteousness and strength, and think they can do without Christ, make flesh their arm, and their souls cannot prosper in graces or comforts. ~ Matthew Henry
I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3
We are bad, sinful, and wicked in our own flesh. Each one of us has fallen short. It is only through Christ alone that His grace is provided for us and we are saved.
Don’t boast in what you have done. Don’t list off all of your accomplishments and services like the Pharisee. Repent, humble yourself, and give thanks to Him always pointing to Christ in all you say and do. Don’t do it for self-approval or self-gratification. May Christ be the One who is being glorified in your life.