Pastors, preachers, and priests are representatives of God to our communities today? Let’s insert a Pastor in the place of the Pharisee for our story. The tax collector was the most despised and hated people. For our study let’s go with a pastor and a pimp.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE CHAPTER 18

Pastor and a Pimp (Luke 18:9-14)

By Pastor Delbert Young

Pastor and A Pimp – Luke 18:9-14

Scriptures: Luke 18:9-14, 2 Corinthians 10:12, 1 John 1:9

Jesus taught his disciples about the coming of the Son of Man (17:22-37). He followed with a parable about why we should never give up in prayer (18:1-8). He followed with this parable.

Luke 18:9-14 To some who were CONFIDENT OF THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND LOOKED DOWN ON EVERYBODY ELSE, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the TEMPLE TO PRAY, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “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.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This is the only parable Jesus told using a religious setting. His other parables are about seed, soil, fish nets, vineyards, sheep, coins, widows, etc. He told the story about “The Rich Man and Lazarus” concerning hell, but this is the only one with a real “religious setting” – the temple the center of Jewish religious worship. The temple to them was where God lived, so let’s go to thetemple to talk to God.

We are immediately told the purpose for the parable. It’s for those of us who place ourconfidence in our own righteousness and look down on everybody else. It’s when we compare ourselves with others and say, “I’m not as bad as them.” We’ve all probably seen or known people who really messed up their lives and we thought, “I’m glad I’m not like that!”

Many people equate their eternity to being good compared to others being bad. We say, “I haven’t killed anyone. I am better than others.” Then we list our good deeds. “I drive a hybrid vehicle and I’m not polluting the atmosphere like everyone else. In fact I’m the only one on the road who knows how to drive. Everyone else is an idiot. I’m better than them.” “I volunteer at the soup kitchen. I’m better than those who don’t” “I’m not overweight. I go to the gym.” “I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I recycle. I only feed my cat organic cat food.” We keep a list of what good people do and do it. We think, “When all is said and done, God will be fine with me. I’ve earned my righteousness. I’m way better than others. He’ll say, ‘You’re not as good as some and not as bad as others. I grade on a curve so you made the cut.'” People see God as a judge in a competition and think they will be ok as long as they finish in the upper half.

Jesus turned the popular thinking about who is saved, or righteous, or goes to heaven on its ear. What he said would be very disorienting and perplexing to those hearing it. In their day this teaching would be received as blasphemy. Jesus showed it is not the person who knows they are good who is saved, righteous, and going to heaven. It is the person who knows they are wicked needing God’s mercy who is. It’s not good people go to heaven. It’s forgiven people go to heaven.

In the day Jesus told this story the view of those listening was that Pharisees were holy men respected by the people for their seemingly righteousness and closeness to God. They were as good as it gets. Their entire lives were devoted to doing “God stuff.” There job was to do good. They represented God to the people in their communities. To make our study more interesting and relevant, let’s transfer this parable to our day and communities. Who are some people representing God to our communities today: Preachers, Pastors, Priests, Reverends, Deacons, Elders? Let’s insert a Pastor in the place of the Pharisee for our story.

The polar opposite to the Pharisee was the tax collector. The tax collector was as bad as it gets. They were the most despised and hated people. No one had compassion for a tax collector. Tax collectors were in collusion with Rome and took advantage of people for their own monetary gain. Who might this be in our society today? We could have a long list from Politicians to Pimps. For our study let’s go with a Pimp.

So we have a Pastor and a Pimp going to church to pray. Obviously, the Pastor would be the good guy going to heaven. Every Pastor is perfect, right? Your Pastor certainly is (kidding). He’s better than the Pimp. The Pimp is the bad guy certainly doomed to hell. This is closer to the way they heard the story.

Luke 18:11-12 The Pharisee {Pastor} stood up and prayed ABOUT HIMSELF: ‘God, I THANK YOUthat I am NOT LIKE OTHER MEN — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector {Pimp}. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

Wow! What a spiritual person. If you knew I fasted twice a week you’d be impressed, right? The Pastor prayed eloquently, but about himself. He said “I” four times comparing himself to those he thought lesser – robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even this Pimp. I fast twice a week. I give my tithe. The Pastor didn’t need God’s mercy. He had it all under control. He attributed God for his prejudices. “I thank you I am better than other people. Thank you, for not making me like other menanthropos {anth’-ro-pos} – a human being, whether male or female.”Thank you God I’m not like other men. Thank you I’m not black. Thank you I’m not white. Thank you I’m not a Jew. Thank you I’m not a woman. Thank you God I’m an American and superior.”

The Pastor tracked himself comparing himself to others assuming what he did made him righteous. He believed who God made him and the good things he’d done made him superior to others. He relied on himself. His confidence in his eternity was in himself. He’d earned his salvation by doing “good.” Jesus warns us if we are not cautious we will become self-righteous like a “Pastor.” OUCH!

Jesus used the temple as the religious background. The temple was divided into sections. The first section was the outer court divided into “courts” for the common people: a court for women; a court for gentiles; and a court for sinners to offer sacrifices. Next there was the holy place for priests. Then there was the holy of holies for God and the high priest to enter once a year. Everyone was neatly pigeonholed. Judaism and its temple encouraged this type segregation promoting prejudice and self-righteousness. (The Temple had to come down and did – Mat 24:1-2)

Religion always does this. Religion encourages us to point out those more screwed up than we are and see ourselves as superior. Anyone can find someone to pick out and say, “Thank you Jesus! At least I’m not like that.” How do you pigeonhole people in your outer court? What prejudices do you have? I’ve personally got some work to do. That temple must come down stone by stone.

2 Corinthians 10:12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are NOT WISE.

When we compare ourselves with ourselves, we come out pretty good, but actually pretty dumb. When we compare ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ everything changes. We see this with the Pimp.

Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector {Pimp} 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.’

When a person requires resuscitation paramedics beat their heart. Have you ever messed up so badly you beat your own heart? I have and more than once. I saw my own depravity, not the depravity of anyone else. I wasn’t looking around comparing myself to anyone. I couldn’t lift my head to heaven. I was like the Pimp. I was the worst of the worst. The Pimp looked at his own heart and saw a sinner needing resuscitation, mercy. He cried out to God for mercy. This is exactly what Jesus desires we do.

Luke 18:14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, WENT HOME JUSTIFIED BEFORE GOD. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

He went home justified, but did he come from home justified? My point is we need to stay confessed up. We don’t need to come to the “temple” – church to confess, but confession needs to be a regular part of our life. This is how we humble ourselves and remain humble.

 (NLT) 1 John 1:9 But IF WE CONFESS our sins to him, he is faithful and just to FORGIVE US AND TO CLEANSE US from every wrong.

Something special happens when we “fess up” to God. There’s a special cleansing nothing else brings. When’s the last time you confessed your sins to God? This is how we humble ourselves. The person who does will be exalted. So who went home justified? Was it the Pastor or the Pimp? Why? The Pastor/Pharisee compared himself to others. There was no humility in the Pastor. The Pimp compared himself to God and saw how wicked he was. He humbled himself and confessed. It’s not the person who knows they are good who is justified, saved, and going to heaven. It is the person who knows they are wicked and needs God’s mercy that is justified.

I need to say this. Is there anything wrong with NOT being a thief, or an addict, or an adulterer? Of course not! Is there anything wrong with fasting or giving tithes? Of course not, but we don’t do these things to compare ourselves. We do them out of a right relationship with God, not for. We don’t do them as works. We do them in love.

Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector {Pimp} 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.’

Jesus didn’t say the tax collector repented for his sins, meaning changed his ways. He simply asked God to have mercy on him. Yet, he was the one who went home justified. I think too often people feel they have to get things straightened out in their lives before they can come to God. It’s not change and then come to God. It’s come to God and you will change. All God wants us to realize is we are sinners in need of his mercy. Start there. It’s not good people go to heaven. It’s forgiven people go to heaven.

What’s the lesson for today? Guard your heart against prejudice. When you find yourself comparing yourself to others you’re not good with God. It’s time to go pray and confess your own sins. If you are honest about your sins, you will humble yourself and go home justified and exalted.

Other Related Sermons:

Zacchaeus, When Jesus Reached the Spot – video audio notes Luke 19:1-10