The Parable of the Pharisee and Publican

Scripture: Luke 18:9-14, Matthew 6:1
Date: 09/10/2022 
The basic message of God is love. Our attitude shows our true heart.

Hidden Eyes and Closed Ears - Paper or Digital Download

Hidden Eyes and Closed Ears - Paper or Digital Download
When you post, you agree to the terms and conditions of our comments policy.
If you have a Bible question for Pastor Doug Batchelor or the Amazing Facts Bible answer team, please submit it by clicking here. Due to staff size, we are unable to answer Bible questions posted in the comments.
To help maintain a Christian environment, we closely moderate all comments.

  1. Please be patient. We strive to approve comments the day they are made, but please allow at least 24 hours for your comment to appear. Comments made on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday may not be approved until the following Monday.

  2. Comments that include name-calling, profanity, harassment, ridicule, etc. will be automatically deleted and the invitation to participate revoked.

  3. Comments containing URLs outside the family of Amazing Facts websites will not be approved.

  4. Comments containing telephone numbers or email addresses will not be approved.

  5. Comments off topic may be deleted.

  6. Please do not comment in languages other than English.

Please note: Approved comments do not constitute an endorsement by the ministry of Amazing Facts or by Pastor Doug Batchelor. This website allows dissenting comments and beliefs, but our comment sections are not a forum for ongoing debate.

Announcer: This presentation is brought to you by the friends of the Amazing Facts ministry.

Doug Batchelor: It's remarkable to look back and to see how the Lord has led through time. And it's through progression and providence, his will is made clear. Throughout scripture, step by step, the Lord has led His people from generation to generation. Even here at "Amazing Facts," I clearly see God's guiding all the way from that very first 15 minute broadcast in 1966, from radio, to television, to publishing, to global evangelism. It's evident that God has a divine plan in motion. Friends, the Lord has a plan for you as well. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "'I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" That great hope is Christ and through Him, amazing facts is moving forward. But you might wonder, what is God's specific purpose for your life? As you trust God with your life and walk with Him day by day, He will wonderfully unfold His good plan for you. We pray that today's program will be a stepping stone to strengthen your walk with Jesus, giving you clarity and fulfillment in the days ahead. And remember, stay tuned for the very important free offer following this presentation.

Doug: Today, I'd like to direct your attention to a passage of scripture that is found one place in the Gospels. Luke chapter 18, starting at six verses. That's what we're studying today. Luke 18, 9 to 14, "Also He spoke this parable to them, some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one is a tax collector, and one was a Pharisee. The Pharisee stood and he prayed thus with himself, "God, I thank You that I'm not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all I possess.' And the tax collector standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but he beat upon 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, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

So, Jesus identifies somebody here that, they went to church and they were very religious and, He said that they went home unjustified, which is another way of saying, lost, in spite of the fact that probably everything he said about himself was true. A morally pure man, but he was lost.

Now, first, let's look at some things that these two have in common. It tells us they both went to church. Now, do we all agree going to church is good? Yeah. Very important. We're called to do it. You can look in Leviticus 23, verse 3, "Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation." You're not only supposed to rest, you're supposed to convene. And that means we come together in the place designated to collectively worship God. There's something about coming together, especially following the pandemic. We need to remember those verses in Hebrews chapter 10. "Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some, is and all the more as you see the day approaching," meaning the Day of the Lord. Do you see the day approaching? Then let's not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

There's something about it when you come together face to face, and I know that God can speak through Zoom and other methods, but the Bible is pretty clear. We come together and worship Him. Luke 4:16, Jesus is our example. As his custom was, he went to the synagogue. The synagogue means the gathering place, just the Jewish word for church, and he stood up to read the scriptures. It was the custom of our Lord to go to church. You can read in Acts 5. You don't only have to come on the Sabbath day, there are other occasions. This prayer meeting. Acts 5, verse 42, "And daily in the temple, and in every house," we come together in church, we come together in homes, and we encourage gathering in small groups. It says, "they came together and they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus Christ." So no matter how bad you think you are, you should still go to church.

This publican thought that he was pretty bad, but he came to church and he left justified. That's what we're all after, amen. So, and then there's some people say, well, I'm not going to church because you got the church is full of people like that Pharisee, hypocrites. Here he's going through all this religious stuff and he's talking about others in the church. And that's why I don't go to church. Don't miss in this story, the publican also went to church and he was saved. So going to church is something that was important for both.

They went up to pray. Prayer is essential. It was also a place where the Word was proclaimed. And so they're doing these very important things that are crucial disciplines for a Christian. That we gather together, we worship, we pray, we listen to the proclamation of God's Word. Don't stay away from church because there may be some hypocrites. As one pastor said, there's always room for one more. So that's not the right excuse. The Publican went to the temple because it was appointed as a house of prayer for all people. Yes, the good, the bad, and the ugly. God invites all to come, because you know, if you're lost, the best place for you to be is in the presence of the Lord, that's where you find salvation. It's something that you'll notice here in this story, what it's telling us is, the devil can destroy people two different ways in church.

Some think they're too bad to be saved and some think they're too good to be lost. In this story, you have one man he just wondered if he was too bad to be saved. And then you had the publican and he thought he was too good to be lost. And things have not changed. That's still a danger. So they both went to church.

They both believed in God, which is good and that's important. The Bible says, "It's the fool who says there is no God." There's a lot of religious people who believe in God and many are saved and many are lost. Remember Jesus said in the last days, "Many will come and say, Lord, Lord," they know he's God. "Haven't we taught in your streets, and we cast out devils, and did many wonderful works?" And He'll say, "Depart from me, you who work iniquity. I do not know you." And so the Lord is warning us, this is a danger that people can say, well, I believe in God. James tells us the devils believe in God too. The devils probably have more faith that there's a God than you do, because they used to live in his presence, these fallen angels. They know there's a God. So it's good.

We must believe in God, but that by itself won't save us. Luke chapter 18, a matter of fact, in this same story at the beginning, in chapter 18, he tells the importance of prayer. And so what Jesus is saying, He tells a story about the widow who would not be deterred from her case, and she kept appealing to the judge and he talks about you need to persist in prayer. So Jesus is extolling the importance and virtues of prayer, but then he adds this story to remind us that, that by itself won't save you. We should pray. Men ought to always pray and not lose heart. 1 Thessalonians, "Pray without ceasing." In Acts chapter 1, verse 3, now, Peter and John went together to the temple at the hour of prayer. There are times designated for prayer where we should come together and pray with others.

And then of course, you should have your personal devotions. I'm hoping everybody here, if you are a Christian, you ought to have some time on your own where you get on your knees, unless you're handicapped somehow, before your maker and every day dedicate yourself to God and spread your plans before him and your concerns. So, prayer is important, but it's possible for people to pray. How many of you have heard of folks that, you know, pray in vain repetition, they say the same prayer all the time and it's like a ritual for them. They're not praying from their hearts, they're copying it. And there's some people that copy prayers, they're just going through the motions. It's not from their heart. So it's good that they both prayed.

Now, these are ways that they were similar, both men that went on the same road, the same day, to the same place, to do the same thing. But how are they different? Well, I want you to notice five things we're going to cover quickly. There's a difference in their professions. There's a difference in their purpose. There's a difference and that would be their attitudes. There's a difference in their posture. There's a difference in their prayers. And then ultimately, there's a difference in their pronouncement.

So let's look at this now. First of all, they're professions. Well, you've got two different people here. You've got one who is a Pharisee and one who's a publican. The Pharisees were the most religious people in the land of Israel in the time of Christ. It's a special sect that developed about 144 years before the Christian era according to Josephus. And they felt like that the pagan nations that occupied them were hijacking their religion, and they said we are going to return to the true religion of the Bible, which is very noble. And don't misunderstand, Jesus does identify there's a number of Pharisees that were hypocrites, but there are some very sincere Pharisees like Nicodemus and like Paul that were in the kingdom. They were very godly, the sincere ones.

As a matter of fact, Jesus said, unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, and people thought, how can you be more godly than the scribes and the Pharisees? And Jesus was really talking about, it must exceed them in its quality. They often got all the basics backwards. Jesus said, "Woe to you Pharisees, for you pay tithe, which is good of mint and rue and all manner of herbs." Now, you know, tithe is 10% of your increase. And so they'd have these little beds of herbs in their backyard, and they would count out ten sprigs of parsley and say, nine for me, one for God. Mint, nine for me, one for God. And so they're paying tithe. They were so exact and fastidious about their religion, they pay tithe on their herb garden. And Jesus actually said, well, that's nice that you ought to do. Don't leave that undone, Jesus is saying, don't neglect tithe.

But He said, you've omitted the weightier things," meaning justice, love, mercy. These, you ought to have done. And so they would often major in minors, and that was one of their problems. So, who are the publicans? These, we're talking about the different professions. Publicans were tax collectors, but I've got to say, it's, you know, nothing against tax collectors today. It was very different. Not that you would love them much more today. But, the tax collectors back then, it was not an honorable profession. Publicans, because they were collecting taxes from their own people. They were Jews that were conscripted or enlisted by the Romans because they spoke the language and they knew the customs. They go to the gates of all the cities and as there was traffic happening with all the trade, they were collecting taxes. There is a certain amount the Romans required them to collect and they said, anything above and beyond this, you get to keep. And so they extorted money from their own people and they got rich doing it. I mean, it even says regarding Zachaeus, he had become very rich tax collector in Jericho, but they were not considered, they were, they basically were outcasts from their society, because they were conspiring or that they were working with the Romans, their oppressors. The tax collectors were considered to be about the worst of the worst.

Listen to what the Bible says here, Jesus speaking, Matthew 11, the Son of man came eating and drinking and they say, look, a glutton and a wine bibber. He eats like a pig and he drinks. A friend of tax collectors and sinners. Notice right there in the eating and the drinking, overeating and the drinking, and the sinners, it drops in a career, tax collector, publican. Matthew 21:31. Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that the tax collectors and the harlots," he lumps them together with that group, "tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you." Go to Matthew 18 verse 17, "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."

So Jesus, these are all the words of Christ. He compares in the same words, He says tax collector. He says publican sinner, publican harlot, publican gentile or pagan. So when you're looking for words to put a person down and you're reaching the dregs, you would include tax collector. And so I want you to understand when Christ said, two men went to the temple to pray, he could not have chosen two more opposite individuals. One group was famous as being the most religious and scrupulous and moral people in the kingdom. The other was infamous for being the worst, but they both go to the temple to pray. We see that there is a difference in their purpose, their attitudes. One is praying to be seen. Matthew chapter 6, verse 1, "Take heed that you do not your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven."

For the Pharisees, a lot of what they did that was religious and may have been good in itself was all done outwardly. Jesus said, they fast to be seen. They pray to be seen. They give to be seen. And so we see that there's a big difference in the purpose, the attitude in his heart. You know, the Pharisee, he never asks anything of God. He's telling God how good he is. "Lord, I thank you, I'm not like other men. I'm not an extortioner, or an adulterer, or unjust, or like this guy back here." And so you go, well, what exactly is the purpose of your prayer? And you wonder is he praying out loud, and that's why it's recorded? He's standing so everyone can see.

Of the Pharisees, so much of their religion was, it was a show for the public. We see there's a difference in their posture. Do you know if posture actually says something about worship? Why do we kneel when we pray? Just the idea of getting on your knees is a sense of humbling yourself. Even in the animal kingdom, they understand that. You'll see everything from a dog to a gorilla. They understand that, you know, if you want to be aggressive and act superior, then they get up. But the alpha dog, he'll stand on all four. The other dog gets down and some animals they look away. You look at the person, it's like confrontational. There's a difference in their posture. One stands proudly, goes to the front seeking out the chief seats, wants to be at the crossroads where everyone's going to see him. The other will not so much as lift up his eyes, but he bows his head and then beats upon his breast. What does that say about your posture?

You know who else beat upon their breast? The people who came and they saw what they had done to Jesus on the cross. Says, when they came, they beat upon their breasts and they left. "What have they done? They killed this wonderful prophet." The Bible says the tax collector is standing afar off. We see there's a difference in their prayers.

Now I'm going to spend some time on this because this is the main difference you see is in their prayers. Jesus said, Matthew 6:5, "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites that love to pray, that they may be seen of men." It needs to be a heart thing. Prayer was a spectacle. Now, what's wrong with the prayer of the Pharisee? Let's look at his prayer first. First of all, he thanks God, not for what he has, but he thank God for what he is. He's not thanking God for what God is, he's thanking God for what he is. He considers himself morally superior to others. It says, "he despised." The whole parable begins, "Jesus made this parable to those that despised others." He despised others.

Should any Christian come to church despising others? No. yeah, you should come because maybe you'll learn there. But, I mean, aren't we supposed to love our enemies? So who do we despise? He despised others because he didn't feel like they lived up to his caliber. Matthew 9 verse 10, Jesus had this experience after Jesus calls Matthew, who is, what's Matthew's occupation? Tax Collector Republican. He calls Matthew to be an apostle. Matthew has a dinner for him.

Now what happened is Jesus sat at table in the house, meaning Matthew's house. Behold many tax collectors, they were Matthew's old friends. Many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, notice the same characters in this story. "When the Pharisees saw it, they said to his disciples, 'What does your teacher do? He's eating with tax collectors and sinners.' And when Jesus heard this, He said, 'Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick. But go learn what this means.'" You're despising others. He's saying to the Pharisees, you need to learn the basics of the message of God. God is love, "Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

We see that the Pharisee condemned his neighbor. He exulted in his own religious practice. He focused on what he is not. There's a little negativity in his prayer, "Lord, I thank thee that I am not. That I don't murder, and I don't commit adultery, and I'm not unjust." And then he says, "and I'm not like that publican back there." Comparing themselves among themselves. He failed to sense his sin and his need for God. It's almost like God owed him. He lacked a humble and a contrite, repentant heart. He measured himself by others when we should measure ourselves by who? By Christ. His prayer is a self righteous, I-centered prayer. You realize in his prayer? Five times, he says, I. I, I, I, I, I. You know where else you see five times, I, I, I, I, I? Lucifer in Isaiah where he says, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will be like the Most--I, I, I, I, I. 'I,' five times. So it's an 'I' self-centered prayer, which, what was Lucifer's big fall? Lucifer's big sin, pride. "When pride comes, then comes shame. But with the humble, there is wisdom."

Now he starts to extol that, he's famous for his fasting and his tithing. Fasting is important. You don't hear much about it in church. The Bible doesn't tell us that Jesus came so he could do away with the Christian discipline of fasting. They said to Jesus, "How come John the Baptist's disciples fast and your disciples don't fast? And Jesus said, when the bridegroom's with them, it's not appropriate. But when he's taken away, they will fast." And Jesus said, "When you fast," he didn't say if you fast. So fasting is good, and I think it's great.

Now, this guy now, by the way, he's talking about his wonderful fasting. According to the Jewish law, there was one day of fasting a year during the day of atonement. This guy is fasting twice a week. And he didn't get that because it was commanded that way. Many of the Pharisees decided to fast every Monday and Thursday. And I don't know if that means he fasted all day, or you fasted for a meal. So he's thinking that he's getting credit and I'm glad that he pays tithe of all that he has. And that's important, and preachers will say amen to that. If you research, did a study, and it's less than a tithe of Christians that pay a tithe. So that's good. That's important that he does that, but he seems to have no sense of his need of God.

You know, if you're Christian and you're coming closer to the light, you'll be painfully aware of all the spots of defilement in your character. But as things around you get darker and darker, you'll become more satisfied with the dirt on your garments. So it's a real danger if that happens.

And then we notice he makes a big mistake. He's comparing himself, "And I thank you that I'm not as this publican." I think I heard somewhere that he ends up identifying one man as a scoundrel. He lists two virtues, I fast and pay tithe, and there's three sins he says, "I'm not guilty of." So you got one, two, three in his prayer. Something that you can count on, you will always find somebody who is worse than you. If your idea of saying how righteous am I, and you say, well, I don't do this, and I don't do that, and I don't do this, and I don't do that.

You'll always have plenty of people you can compare yourself to. But is that how we're to compare ourselves, or is Jesus our example? Keep your eyes fixed on Him, your standard will always go higher. If you're looking horizontally, and notice this, the prayer of the Pharisee is a horizontal prayer. It doesn't, it's a plane that never leaves the runway. Some people pray and their prayers never get off the ground, because their prayers are all about them. Whereas the prayer of the Publican is a vertical prayer. He is looking to God for mercy. The big difference between the two.

Then finally, point five, we see there's a difference in the pronouncement. Jesus pronounces one man justified and one man, he went home the same way he came, lost. You realize when he says that the Publican is forgiven, you say justified, that's what we all want. You know, we're unjust because of sin. He is justified. His sins are forgiven. What is his prayer? This is a prayer we should all remember in English, it's seven words. "God be merciful to me, a sinner." I thought it was so interesting during the children's story, she asked the child if they wanted to pray. And she basically said that very prayer. She said, "Forgive us for being sinners," or something to that effect. A child can pray that prayer, this Publican, he came, he said, "Lord have mercy on me." Would not lift up his eyes unto heaven and he was forgiven. He went home, forgiven.

That's how we want to go home today friends, amen? There's no third option in this story. We either do it in God's way, humble ourselves before the Lord, or we can trust in our own goodness, and our righteousness, and we can leave the way we came. And we all want to go forth from this place justified through the sacrifice of Jesus. Amen?

Doug: Here at "Amazing Facts International," we strive to reach the world with the amazing truths of the Bible and proclaim the love of Jesus. We print thousands of easy to read materials such as books, tracks and fully illustrated magazines that are all designed to change lives by clearing up the many misunderstandings people have regarding the Word of God. Our warehouse is filled with resources ready to mail out and we're eager to send them to you. Make the most of your Bible study today by requesting our free offer. It'll surely enhance your knowledge of the Bible while imparting a blessing to you and those in your life. Simply follow the instructions on the screen and we'll send it to you free of charge. And once you read it, be sure to share it with a friend.

[door creaking] Announcer: Throughout recorded history, tales of ghosts and spirits can be found in folklore in nearly every country and culture. Egyptians built pyramids to help guide the spirits of their leaders. Rome, sanctioned holidays to honor and appease the spirits of their dead. Even the Bible tells of a king that used a witch to contact the spirit of a deceased prophet. Today, ancient folklore of spirits and apparitions have gone from mere superstitions to mainstream entertainment and reality. Scientific organizations investigate stories of hauntings and sightings trying to prove once and for all the existence of ghosts. Even with all the newfound technology and centuries of stories all over the world, there is still no clear cut answer. So how do we know what's true? Why do these stories persist? Does it even matter? We invite you to look inside and find out for yourself. Visit

Announcer: Don't forget to request today's free offer. It's sure to be a blessing, and thank you for your continued support as we take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

Announcer: This presentation was brought to you by the friends of the Amazing Facts ministry.

Share a Prayer Request
Ask a Bible Question



Prayer Request:

Share a Prayer Request


Bible Question:

Ask a Bible Question