Opening Prayer

Lord God, thank you for showing me your truths held in Scripture. As I read today, help me to understand and apply them in new and deeper ways.

Read LUKE 18:9–17

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 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. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “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.’

14 “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.”

The Little Children and Jesus

15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

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New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Are you ever tempted to focus more on what you are doing than on what God is doing for you?

Think Further

Two men go up to the temple to pray. The context is the ‘time of prayer’:1 a time of both corporate worship and private prayer associated with the atonement sacrifices (offered daily at dawn and 3 pm). The sacrifice was offered outside, followed by the reading of a psalm (accompanied by cymbals and trumpets). Then, the officiating priest went inside to offer incense and attend to the lamps—as Zechariah was doing when he encountered Gabriel.2 As incense was being burned inside, ‘all the assembled worshippers were praying outside.’3

Standing apart from others to avoid contact with anyone unclean, the Pharisee is assured of his standing with God and is contemptuous of others (vv. 9,11). As intercessory prayer was often said aloud, Jesus may want us to imagine the impact of his words on those close by, such as the tax collector. He’s gone further than required in fasting and tithing, he’s outdoing others, at least in his own estimation. He asks nothing of God because he believes nothing is lacking. He’s like the ninety-nine who do not realize they need to repent.4

In contrast, the tax collector stands at a distance, fearing to come closer. Beating one’s breast is unusual5 and suggests broken- hearted penitence. He dares not look up to heaven. His request is for more than mercy. Remember that this is an atonement sacrifice. His prayer is something like, ‘God, make atonement for me, a sinner’ (Paul uses a related noun to describe the cross as a ‘sacrifice of atonement’).6 He’s asking for grace.

Jesus is clear: the tax collector’s humble request means that he goes home justified, but the Pharisee’s complacent self-praise means that he’s disregarded and will be humbled.


Picking up from today’s initial ‘Reflect,’ receive God’s forgiveness and know his delight in forgiving you.

Closing prayer

Father, if there are places where I see myself more highly than I should, show me, convict me, and draw me to repentance. Thank you that you are always eager to forgive me.

Last Updated on January 13, 2024 by kingstar

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