Artist: David LaChapelle

When sinners go marching in- Saturday, 3rd Week of Lent – Luke 18:9-14

Jesus makes clear who the intended audience is and He categories them into three sections; those who trusted in themselves, those who were righteous and those who regarded others with contempt.  The Biblical passage is strewn with little clues and gems and one has to look for them to see both, the clear meaning that lies in each parable and the little details that help narrate the characters in the parable.

The parable has two characters that enter and exit differently. The Pharisee takes a place in the temple in avoidance of anyone else; he is as we are told “standing by himself”. His very physical posture betrays the “righteous” class he believes himself to fall in and thus holds a belief of superiority. To make matters worse, his prayer is directed to God but in comparison to not an equal but what was considered in those days the worst; the tax collector.

The Pharisees fame to claim is that he is not “like other people” who are thieves, rogues, adulterers or tax collectors. Then he goes on to spell out his case of righteousness which includes his fast twice a week and a tithe of ALL his income.  Interestingly, the Pharisee speaks nothing about keeping the law for nowhere in the law was it required for one to fast twice a week; this was an introduction into Judaism based on human precepts. Interestingly also, while the law called for a tithe ( tenth of one income) it never called for a tithe of ALL of one’s income; for example there was no tithe require on property. It’s interesting to note that the righteous Pharisee had maintained human precepts more than he had kept the commandments of God, an accusation that Jesus makes often in the Gospels.    

The Tax collector on the other hand is not without guilt. Tax collectors were hated because they both connived with the Romans and then over taxed the people using the might of the Roman army as their cover.  The tax collectors words however were few, his actions were louder. He beat his breast as a sign of repentance for he truly desired forgiveness. He was aware of his own failing before God and shame loomed so large that he could not even “look to heaven”.

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