Read Luke 18:9-14
Recognizing the Need
Jesus often taught through parables. These simple stories relayed important spiritual truths to the listeners. Many of the parables taught lessons about the kingdom of heaven; others were used to point out flaws in one’s attitude. In this particular parable, Jesus highlighted the difference in attitudes between a Pharisee who put his trust in how much better he was than other men, and a tax collector who recognized his great need.
The Pharisee, when he prayed, compared himself to other men. He listed a number of sins (or perceived sins) that he had avoided: “extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). He then extolled his own worth, saying, “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:12). It was almost as if he were telling God how great he was, instead of how great God is.
The tax collector, on the other hand, refused to even look up as he prayed. His prayer was simple and direct: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:14). He did not compare himself to other tax collectors who may have been cheating the people out of money. He did not tell God, “I might be a sinner, but at least I don’t sin like that!” He did not say, “Look how humble I am!”
No, he compared himself to the only thing that truly matters: God’s standard. When we stand before the Almighty, we will not be judged on a curve. We will not be compared to other men, no matter how good or bad they were or we were. We will be judged by the words of Christ (John 12:48). And we will be acquitted of our wrongdoings if we are in Christ (Romans 8:1).
The tax collector knew that he needed the mercy of God. Every single person alive today still needs that same mercy, and it is provided through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. It is provided only to those who are in Christ. And the Scriptures are clear how one accesses such a gracious blessing: through baptism into His death (Romans 6:3-4). Do you recognize your need? Are you in Christ?