"And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)
When you compare yourself to other people, you can look pretty good in your own eyes, especially if you hand pick those that you are comparing yourself unto!
But, here is the thing! When we compare ourselves to the Lord, we realize just how bad of a shape we are in!
Jesus told the story of two men that went to the house of God. One a Pharisee, the other, a publican, which is a tax collector. Publicans were notoriously corrupt, dishonest, and viewed as traitors to their nation! A publican was a good target if you are trying to justify yourself as better than others.
Note the purpose of this parable: "And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:" (v. 9)
1) The Pharisee "trusted in himself", not God.
2) He considered himself "righteous", and not sinful.
3) He "despised" others. So he had hatred in his heart.
None of that is good!
When he prayed in "church", Jesus decribed it as, "...prayed thus with himself,..." (v. 11) HE WAS NOT TALKING TO GOD! His prayers did not make it to the ceiling, yet along to the highest heaven!
The Pharisee must have been praying with his eyes wide open, and glaring at the publican, because he is pretty pointed in his words. "...I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." (v. 1)
Isn't that hilarious! He is comparing himself to another human being, and is looking pretty good. In the next verse he brags to God about his fasting twice a week, and his tithing to the Lord!
God was not impressed!
But, then there is the dirty ol' tax collector, standing "afar off", head bowed low, and slapping his chest with his clutched fist, as he begs for forgiveness of his sins.
This publican was not comparing himself to the self-righteous hypocrite that was in the Lord's house that day. I just imagine, that, he had met Jesus, perhaps that day. Maybe, he had seen Christ in the streets of the city, healing others? Or, perhaps, he had heard Jesus teaching about God's love for people?
"Pharisees" still walk the earth, today. Many of them are "professional" church members, which are comparing themselves to drug dealers, child molesters, and murderers. You can look pretty impressive by those standards!
But, when we compare ourselves to Jesus, our righteousness is only "filthy rags".
Humble yourself before a righteous and loving God. It will make Him smile.
From my heart to your heart.