The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14  text from

I had a real life encounter with this today.  Our A/C was on the fritz, and when the guy came to fix it, he and I got in to a long conversation.  It happens with me.  My wife says I’d talk to a wall if it will listen.  He and I were talking about cars and guy stuff, and he started to tell me how he has a 14 year old son from a previous marriage that they home school.  He told me how he rebuilds Jeeps at night, and he invites all his son’s friends over to help out.  In fact, he’ll build them their own, provided they work on it, too.

He then told me how many nights there are 8-10 teenagers hanging out at his house, instead of being out on the streets.  They can’t drink, smoke, or cuss, and they have to be respectful.  If you saw this guy, you’d know he could enforce these rules.  No teenager is going to mess with him.  He told me how one young man comes from a house where both parents are alcoholics, and that he’s really seen a change in the boy.

As I listened to his story, I couldn’t help but be struck by this fact:  the church needs guys like this.  I told him so, and he proceeded to tell me how he grew up in church, knows the Lord, but got tired of all the hypocrisy.  He said he was looked at as a sinner and hoodlum for having a beer every now and then, and it eventually drove him out.

This guy is giving up his time and money to help kids that, in many cases, their parents don’t even care about.  Why?  In his words:  “Nobody was there to help me.  I want to be there to help them.”  Now I’m not going there on his stance on alcohol, but here’s my point:  the man that seemed unrighteous to many in Jesus’ parable was the one that went away justified.  I stood there today feeling like the Pharisee.

How many of us have say all the right things, go to church three times a week, yet don’t give a rip about anyone else?  This guy probably won’t be on the front pew Sunday, but I’ll guarantee you he’ll be making a difference in someone’s life.  What about you and I?  Will we?

One thought on “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

  1. Matt, use always pray that we are making a difference in someones life. This man seems to be making a tangible difference. Hopefully he will find a church that is on mission and will not judge so quickly.


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