The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-collector is very interesting because it shows us how to approach God in a way that is acceptable and pleasing to Him. First, we see a Pharisee approaching God on the basis of his own merits. He even try to force upon God the truth of his own righteousness. He thought his righteousness (his good deeds) would force God to respond. His prayer was not accepted because of his distorted sense about himself and about God. Secondly, the tax-collector who was one of the most hated person of his time drew to God on the basis of God’s grace and mercy. He was accepted, not because of the bad things he did, but because of his humility and honesty. My brother, my sister, if you are asked who you resemble the most among these two characters, certainly, you would say you are more like the tax collector.
Many believers slip into self-righteousness without knowing sometimes. How? You see, most of us certainly think : “thank God that I am not like that person… I go to church, I read the Bible and the preacher and know to be humble.” Well, that’s right, but it may look a bit more like the Pharisee who went above and beyond the required observances, fasting twice a week although only needed to do so once a year or who paid a tithe on all he earned, although he was required to do so only on the first fruits of his harvest… My friend, he was doing a bit too much of what was expected of Him by the Law that he followed, and all that was not acceptable to the Lord! Why? Because by overdoing, he unknowingly became arrogant, unbending, legalistic, and certainly self-righteous and even too proud of who he was and what he did. And in the end, this Pharisee trusted in himself and his prayer of gratitude may be addressed to God, yet it is really all about himself: “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” (verses 11-12). Yes, my friend, any of us can slip into this character’s shoe without knowing it.