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XCVII.

Parable of the Pharisee and Publican.

C Luke XVIII. 9–14.

c 9 And he spake also this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and set all others at nought [It is commonly said that this parable teaches humility in prayer, but the preface and conclusion (see verse 14) show that it is indeed to set forth generally the difference between self-righteousness and humility, and that an occasion of prayer is chosen because it best illustrates the point which the Lord desired to teach. The parable shows that the righteousness in which these parties trusted was devoid of that true charity or heart-love toward God and man without which our characters are worthless in the sight of God— Prov. xxx. 12, 13; Isa. lxv. 5; I. Cor. xiii. 1–3]: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray [The temple was the appointed place for Jewish prayer. To it the Jew went if near at hand, and towards it he prayed it afar off. The stated hours of prayer were 9 A. M. and 3 P. M., but men went there to pray whenever they felt like it]; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. [The two represent the extremes of Jewish social and religious life—see p. 71 and 76.] 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself [This may mean that he stood alone, withdrawing from the contamination of others, but it seems rather to mean that he prayed having himself, rather than God, uppermost in his thoughts], God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. [His prayer is more a boast as to himself than an expression of worship toward God ( Rev. iii. 17, 18), and he makes the sinful record of the publican a dark background on which to display the bright contrast of his own character—a character for which he was thankful, and apparently with reason.] 12 I fast twice in the week [the law appointed one fast in the year, 537viz.: on the Day of Atonement ( Lev. xvi. 29, 30), but the Pharisees fasted on Mondays and Thursdays of each week]; I give tithes of all that I get. [I give the tenth part of my income. The law required that tithes be given from the corn, wine, oil, and cattle (Deut. xiv. 22, 23), but the Pharisees took account of the humblest herbs of the garden, and gave a tenth of their mint, anise, and cummin (Matt. xxiii. 23). Thus he confessed his virtues rather than his sins.] 13 But the publican, standing afar off [remote from the Holy Place], would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven [Ps. cxxiii. 1, 2; xl. 12; Ez. ix. 6], but smote his breast [as if to remind himself of the stroke of God which he so richly deserved—Nah. ii. 7; Luke xxiii. 48 ], saying, God be thou merciful to me a sinner. [He makes full confession of his sin without excuse or justification, and without offset of righteousness. Moreover, he petitions for no temporal blessings, but simply asks for mercy—I. Tim. i. 15.] 14 I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other [we are taught here, as in the parable of the prodigal son, that the penitent unrighteous are more acceptable to God than the righteous who make no confession of their sins]: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. [Luke xiv. 11, see p. 494. The Pharisee was an example of the first, and the publican of the second.]

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