Faithlife Sermons

The Pharisee & The Tax Collector

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God wants us to depend on him more than we depend on ourselves.

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Engage

Think long and hard about how you can do your best to get their attention.What is the hardest thing for you to put down when it’s time to go to school, work, dinner, etc.?
Illustration: All the cigarettes I’ve ever smoked.
Question: What is a stupid thing you’ve done, just because you had the independence to do it?

Tension

What you’re doing here is bringing up some kind of a problem. The tension you create should make people lean in and give them an opportunity to anticipate the tension being resolved.
We live in a time where we are independent, and we need very little from anybody else. This is super-duper true in America. Our first ever holiday, is now known as “Independence Day.”
This is super-duper true in America. Our first ever holiday, is now known as “Independence Day.”
We aren’t really good at managing ourselves, though.

Truth & Application

Once you’ve engaged the congregation and presented some kind of tension, you can now go to God’s Word in order to resolve the tension. The next section, Application, should happen naturally as you are teaching, and should come to a point after you teach through Scripture.
The Context
Luke 18:9-14
Luke 18:8–14 NLT
I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9–14 NLT
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:

The Context

Jesus is talking to Pharisees, about Pharisees. He’s doing everything short of saying “Hey, Dave! I’m talking about you, here!”
They went “up” to the temple to pray.
Pharisees were really pious, and really good at keeping the law.
Tax Collectors were traitors, scum, sinners, despised.
Yet again, Jesus is pointing out the upside-down-ness of his Kingdom.
Who is Jesus talking to?
Why do you think he singled them out?
What was the Pharisee’s prayer like? The tax collector?

The Heart of a Pharisee

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Hook
Illustration: “Motivation Station” made me feel superior to others
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Book
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Luke 18:11–12 NLT
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
Luke 18:11-12
Look
He was probably praying this out loud.
He addresses God, but doesn’t even ask for anything. Seems to think God ought to be praying to him! This prayer isn’t actually unknown. There was a well-known Rabbi in the generation after Jesus, who is recorded in the Talmud, like a manual for the Jewish faith way back in the day, offering up a really similar prayer every time as he exited the synagogue:
Luke: An Introduction and Commentary 2. The Pharisee and the Publican (18:9–14)

I give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, that Thou hast set my portion with those who sit in the Beth ha-Midrash (House of learning) and Thou hast not set my portion with those who sit in (street) corners, for I rise early and they rise early, but I rise early for words of Torah and they rise early for frivolous talk; I labour and they labour, but I labour and receive a reward and they labour and do not receive a reward; I run and they run, but I run to the life of the future world and they run to the pit of destruction.

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, that you have set my place with those who sit in the house of learning, and you have not set my place with those who sit at home. I wake up early and they wake up early; but I wake up early for your Word, and they wake up early for nonsense talk. I work and they work; but I work and get a reward, and they work and don’t get a reward. I run and they run; but I run to eternal life and they run to the eternal destruction.
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— Rabbi Nehunya ben HaKanah. Talmud, Berakhoth 28b (Elliot’s own paraphrase of the Soncino translation)
Fasting twice a week was going above/beyond.
Morris, Leon. Luke: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 3. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988. Print. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries.
Fasting twice a week was going above/beyond.
He gives a tenth of everything. Probably even, like, his candy. Only certain things required a tithe, according to the Law of the Old Testament.
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Took
His Heart Was Proud
It really starts with his prideful heart.
He thinks he’s awesome.
He looked down on others.
He looks down on others.
He thought
Has your heart ever been proud?
His Heart Was Legalistic
Pride leads to legalism. You’re proud of your accomplishments, skills, hard work, etc. Then, those things you do, those accomplishments, become the basis for your identity. For your faith. For God, really.
Has your heart ever been legalistic?
His Heart Was Independent
Legalism leads to independence. If you’re working hard to earn your salvation through your actions, where’s the need for God? He has become
Has your heart ever been independent?
Have you ever had a tendency to be legalistic in your relationship with God? Why do you think that is?
Why do we lean toward following the rules, in our spiritual lives?
Is there anything wrong with trying and be the best you can be? If not, what was the problem with the Pharisee?
Today, if someone is said to be self-sufficient or independent, is that usually a compliment or an insult?

The Heart of a Tax Collector

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Illustration Needed
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Luke 18:
Luke 18:13 NLT
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’
Look
He was acting in such humility that he didn’t even presume he had the right to look God in the eye.
Took
His Heart Was Humble
Something
Is your heart humble?
His Heart Was Honest
Something
Is your heart honest?
His Heart Was Dependent
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Is your heart dependent on God?
What does it look like to be honest with yourself?
How do you humble yourself?
If you could flip a light switch and your heart were completely dependent on God, how would your life change?
In America, our mindset is usually pretty independence-oriented. How can we begin to be more dependent on God?

Inspiration

This is the time where you can ask great questions. Could be called “reflection.”
We’ve all been like the Pharisee at some point. With a heart full of pride, arrogance, and an independent spirit.
Hopefully, we’re all becoming more and more like the Tax Collector, as we grow in our walk with Jesus.
The only one who can transform our heart is Jesus. We can try all we want, but it’s really up to him to do that. He’s constantly working on our hearts, and we have to let him do that.
So, who are you? Which of these two prayers feels more like one you’ve prayed?
Jesus demonstrates his own humility, after this lesson. Parents want to bring their kids. Disciples try to shoo them away, “He’s too busy.” Jesus says let them come to me.
Bottom Line: A life of dependence begins with a humble heart.
What is one thing you can do this week to be more like the Tax Collector?
If Jesus is the only one who can change our heart, how do we let him do that?
Is there anybody you could team up with to make it easier for you to follow through this week?

Action

Think through what you want them to do in light of your message and spell it out plainly to them.
Take a penny. Keep it with you as your reminder to have the heart of a tax collector.
What does that penny mean to you?
Will you try keeping it with you this week?
How can God work in
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