“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)
Jesus loved to tell parables to help teach his disciples and the crowds that followed Him. This was another of these parables. The story featured two men who were praying to God. One was a Pharisee, who was considered the holiest of Jews by fellow Jews. The other man was a tax collector, who was considered the bottom of the holy ladder by fellow Jews. They both had different prayers. The Pharisee was talking about all the things that he did that made him “righteous”. The tax collector was talking about all that made him unrighteous and begged for mercy.
Jesus told the crowds (and to us too) that the one that went away from that prayer time justified was the tax collector because the tax collector knew that righteousness does not come from works, it comes from trusting in God’s forgiveness and redemption. We have that through Jesus’ work on the cross. So this week, let us remember where our forgiveness and righteousness come from. They come from Jesus.