True Righteousness-Luke 18:9-14

Luke 18:9-14 “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.”

Luca 18:9-14 “Disse ancora questa parabola per certuni che erano persuasi di essere giusti e disprezzavano gli altri: 10 «Due uomini salirono al tempio per pregare; uno era fariseo e l’altro pubblicano. 11 Il fariseo, stando in piedi, pregava così dentro di sé: “O Dio, ti ringrazio che io non sono come gli altri uomini, ladri, ingiusti, adùlteri; neppure come questo pubblicano. 12 Io digiuno due volte la settimana, pago la decima su tutto quello che possiedo”. 13 Ma il pubblicano se ne stava a distanza e non osava neppure alzare gli occhi al cielo; ma si batteva il petto, dicendo: “O Dio, abbi pietà di me, peccatore!” 14 Io vi dico che questo tornò a casa sua giustificato, piuttosto che quello; perché chiunque s’innalza sarà abbassato, ma chi si abbassa sarà innalzato».

      This is the second parable talking about persistence in prayer. But in this one, as Luke comments, the intended target audience focuses on the presumed righteous community.

In the days of Jesus, the religious community believed that acts of prayer, alms giving and fasting would bring about personal righteousness. In other words, good works (always done for outward display) would guarantee God’s favor and they would be compensated as the righteous ones. Their trust was in their own goodness.

The concept of self-righteousness was the subject of much of Jesus’ teaching, the writings of Paul and still finds a comfortable home in the church today. To the Pharisees, Jesus said, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts.” (Luke 16:15).  In many cases, the judgmental attitude of believers is displayed in legalism. It is amazing how we worship God who is long suffering and patient with us but we still can withhold mercy from others. In this narrative, the Pharisee had his open location to pray and would stand apart from the others who came to pray. Notice also that the self-righteous in this account never actually repent of anything. Their purpose in prayer was to advertise their righteousness and remind God of the sins of others.

The summary of Jesus must have completely offended the Pharisee because the parable denotes that he was a moral man. Jesus points out that his morality was based more on a self-righteous trust. He was spiritually lost because he believed he didn’t need God’s forgiveness. Isaiah 29:13 states, “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”

Pray with me: Lord, although my actions may be right, I have sometimes fallen into the trap of spirituality based on my self-righteousness and judgmentalism. Help me to realize that my spirituality is founded on my daily communication with You and never forget that I am a sinner saved by grace.

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