Religious Person and the Sinner – sermon notes – The Lord said a religious person who thinks they are holier than thou gag me. They stink and make me cough. I want to get away from them. This parable is about such a person with a religious attitude. We all know such people. My prayer is we are not such people. These people are deceived into thinking they are justified, or accepted by God when in actuality they make the Lord gag and cough.

By Pastor Delbert Young


Parables of Jesus


Scriptures: Luke 18:9-14, Isaiah 65:5, Matthew 14:14, John 3:16-17

 Luke 18:9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

 Luke 18:10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

 Luke 18:11 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.

 Luke 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

 Luke 18:13 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.

 Luke 18:14 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.

Isaiah 65:5 Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.

Holier than thou

Speaking about religious people, people who called themselves God’s people and who think they are holier than thou, the Lord said, “You gag me.” “You stink and make me cough.” “I want to get away from you.” This parable is about such a person. It’s about a person with a religious attitude. We all know such people. My prayer is we are not such people. These people are deceived into thinking they are justified, or accepted by God when in actuality they make the Lord gag and cough.

Parable objects – Pharisee and publican

Jesus taught his doctrine using parables. Every parable used relevant objects all hearing were familiar with. In this parable Jesus used a Pharisee and a publican. Everyone in their day knew what these were. For those of us who do not, the Pharisee was a very religious person who took pride on his religious success. The Pharisee could quote the scriptures. He dressed religiously, talked religiously, and prayed in a religious manner. The heart’s desire of a Pharisee was people would know simply by looking at him he was a very religious person. Of all the people the Lord encountered, it seemed the Pharisee irritated the Lord most (Mat 23:12-29). They did far more than any sinner.

The publican was a tax collector. The Pharisee’s always grouped the publicans with sinners of the worse sort. Publicans were despised by the people of Israel and especially despised by the Pharisees. The reason for the disdained was because the publicans collected taxes for Rome, the oppressors of God’s people. The reason the Pharisee’s despised the publicans was because they were wealthy and did not live a religious life. The lifestyle of the publican was in complete opposite to the Pharisee.

For our study we will refer to the Pharisee as a religious person and the Publican as a sinner.

Religious ideals

Even today there is an ideal, an apotheosis, suggesting Believers should dress a certain way and talk a certain way and act a certain way. It suggests we should be able to look at a person and know immediately if the person is a Christian. This parable destroys this philosophy.

Trusted in themselves

The Greek word pith {pi’-tho}, translated trusted, means persuaded. This parable is about people who are persuaded in themselves. We could say it is about people who are full of themselves. I think back at my earlier years. How full of myself must I have seemed to people? The problem is, I was.

The religious person trusted in himself. Their trust and persuasion was in how they dressed and how they talked and how much scripture they knew. Their trust was in how often they fasted and how much tithes they gave. They believed they were righteous because they kept the law. I trusted in myself because I thought I had a great revelation and was gifted to see things in the word of God others did not see until “I” showed it to them. How vain I was!

I want to say something and I know it will sound shocking. A person can do everything the Bible says to do, yet not be saved. Some people trust in themselves that they are righteous (Luk 18:9). We will note this religious person thought he was righteous because he did what the law said. However, Jesus said he was not justified.

The danger of trusting in self

What are some attributes of a person who trust in themselves? The reason this is important to note here is because the same person will not trust in God, the Holy Spirit, nor the Lord if they trust in self. A person who trust in self-will not seek counsel. They do not need to. They trust in self. Another attribute of a person who trusts in self is often a series of bad decisions. This is because one bad decision birthed several more in an attempt to correct the first. However, the most serious attribute of a person who trust in themselves is they despise others. They consider themselves superior and look condescendingly at others.

When it comes to worship, the person who trusts in self will trust in their own righteousness and not in the righteousness of Christ. They are justified by the way they dress or how they pray. They are always projecting the holier than thou attitude.

Two men went up into the temple to pray

The Lord said a religious person and a sinner went to pray. When people come to church they come for a reason. Underlying is the need to pray or we could say find God. The sinner Publican, though a sinner, was coming to find God.

As already discussed, the religious person loathed the sinner. Sometimes in church we will be put in a position with people we really would never be around in any other setting. What is going on inside of us at those times? Can we pray? If we pray, what are we thinking? Are we holier than thou? I must admit, there are some people who if during a service they came in I would be affected. I would have a struggle.

Here is why I ask this. Today there will be a meeting of area churches at the old football stadium. What is our attitude about this?

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself

  1. prayed thus with himself

There are times when we pray only to ourselves. We think we are praying to God, but we are only praying to ourselves. This was one of those times. The NIV Bible says the Pharisee prayed about himself, but so did the sinner. It’s better using the King James’ version. As we will see, the Pharisee was not justified, so he must have been praying only with himself. Sometimes prayers are not answered because they are not heard. The reason they were not heard is because we were praying with ourselves.

  1. prayed about accomplishments – exalted himself

The religious person said, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this sinner. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess (Luk 18:11-12). We need to list these things he prayed to make certain we do not miss anything.

  1. God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are
  2. extortioners
  3. unjust
  4. adulterers
  5. as this sinner
  6. I fast twice in a week
  7. I give tithes of all

The religious person gave seven accomplishments in his life he felt should prove he was right with God. This religious person was a very honorable and respectable man. He was honest in all his money dealings. But this is not all. He was just and upright to everyone. But this is not all. He was not an adulterer. But this was not all. He fasted twice each week. But this was not all. He gave tithes of all he possessed. But this was not all. He was not as this sinner. Meaning the religious person was accusing the sinner of being an extortionist, unjust, an adulterer, never fasted, and never gave tithes.

The problem

This religious person was a good person. The religious person was evidently serious with God. Obviously he was right with God, correct? One of the saddest things is hell will be full of good people. We should thank God we are not extortioners, unjust, adulterers. We should fast and we should give tithes. The problem with what he said was number five of the seven. Number five was he despised others and exalted himself. The parable is about those who trust that they were righteous, and despise others. Despising others can nullify all the good we do and make us unrighteous.

Matthew 14:14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

It is fine to look at people with compassion toward them, but it is unacceptable to look at people and despise them. As I prepared this, I wondered if I had not taught us to look at the multitude with disdain despising them. We tend to think we are superior because of what the Lord has shown us theologically. We are giving a warning today. We must look at people with compassion. If we refuse, all the good we do means nothing. Jesus looked upon the people with compassion, not despising them.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

We often quote John 3:16, but not John 3:17. The Son did not come to condemn the world, but save it. Today Christianity wants a great tribulation to come and burn up all those damned sinners. This is not God. This is despising others.

There is a story about two runners running a cross-country race. The one behind in the race could see the runner in the front as they came close to the finish line. There remained one obstacle. The obstacle was a ravine. The runner in the front came to the ravine and leaped with all his might only made it about two-thirds across. He tumbled to the bottom of the ravine. The runner behind was able to see what happened and knew he had the race won because the first runner had fallen short. So he gathered all his strength and ran as hard as he could toward the ravine. He leaped with all his might coming just inches short of the other side. He too tumbled to the bottom of the ravine. Because he jumped further did not matter. See, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Jesus told those religious people the harlots and sinner would enter the kingdom of God before they would enter (Mat 21:31).

the publican, standing afar off

The despised tax collector stood away off to the side. His head was bent down. Because of his guilt and shame, he would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven. He beat his chest saying, God be merciful to me a sinner (Luk 18:13). He was not looking at others. He was looking at himself. He did not despise others. He despised himself! He saw there was no good thing in his flesh and there was no way he could accomplish anything to bring him to the glory of God. It is when we come to the place of despising the things in our own lives and not others justification comes. His prayer was not with himself. He touched the heart of God. The sinner’s prayer was totally different from the prayer of the religious person. The sinner’s prayer was heard.

Have you ever had something in your life that actually had you? Try as you may, you could not defeat it. You beat on yourself and did all you could to control yourself, but . . .

We learn much about the type of prayer the Lord desires from us and the prayer capable of justifying. The Lord is not interested in our telling him how wonderful we are. He does want us to recognize his mercy.

The sinner humbled himself and reached for God’s mercy. The religious person trusted in himself and reached for his accomplishments. The sinner based his righteousness on God’s mercy. The religious person based his righteousness on being a religious person. The religious person denied he was a sinner. The sinner confessed he was a sinner whose only hope was God’s mercy.

There was a young girl driving seventy-five miles per hour in a thirty-five miles per hour zone. She was pulled over by a police officer and had to go to court and stand before the judge. She appeared before the judge who sat behind the bench in his robe. The judge asked, “How do you plea?” The girl said, “I’m guilty . . . daddy.” The judge said, “Your fine in $500.00 or the loss of your license.” Then the judge stood, took off his robe, reached into his pocket and pulled out five one-hundred dollar bills, came down from his bench and paid the fine. The judge must judge the situation correctly, but he was not only the judge. He was the girl’s father.

The Lord came out of his throne and came down to where we are and paid the fine for us. The sinner understood this. He knew he was guilty and his only hope was the Father’s mercy. The religious person believed all his accomplishments would be sufficient for him. We all fall short, but we can all come and receive Father’s mercy.

this man went down to his house justified rather than the other

If we decided which one was justified, which might we select? Would it be the one who was not an extortionist, not unjust, not an adulterer, who did fast twice a week, and did give tithes of all? Or, would we select the man who was a sinner and knew it? The Lord said it was the sinner who learned to humble himself.

Here is the promise from the Lord. Everyone (this does not leave many out does it?) that exalteth himself shall be abased. This means if a person exalts himself, this person will be humbled. It is a dangerous thing to be full of ourselves and trust in ourselves. This is especially true when dealing with salvation.

The opposite is true when a person can humble himself. The promise is the person who will humble himself, will be exalted.

Which one am I? Am I the religious person Pharisee or the sinner publican? Do I despise others or despise my own sin? Which one are we as a church body? I want to pray for you today. I especially want to pray for us sinner who need to feel and experience the compassion of the Lord. You have never come to the Lord. I want to pray with you. Also, I want to pray for those who find themselves despising others.

Other Related Sermons:

Great Tribulation and Olivet Discourse – video audio notes Revelation