Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pentecost 22c - Luke 18:9-14

Luke 18:9-14
The Pharisee standing by himself is imprisoned by his piety and for all his tithing and fasting and righteous living he is farther away from God than the tax collector standing far off. The tax collector in the company of thieves, rouges and adulterers is equally imprisoned by his impiety but closer to God because of his humility (or is it shame?) which is entirely appropriate for the life he lives and the company he keeps. Of course he is still far off, physically and spiritually, despite being justified for knowing who he is. He will never be able to lift his head or give his breast a break until being justified goes beyond saying I’m sorry. But the parable is not about the tax collector nor does it encourage us to “go and do likewise.”  The parable is about people whose pride in practicing religion makes the practice of religion meaningless despite all the effort put into ordering life by religious practices. One cannot be close to God standing by oneself. So perhaps being close to God is to live like a Pharisee and pray like a tax collector?


  1. and work as if salvation depends on my efforts, but pray remembering that it is an undeserved-no-matter-what-I-do gift of God's grace?

  2. Yes, or maybe the living and working is the response to the being justified. We become what we already are...(Augustine) which involves some effort on our part. Maybe we can continually come crying Lord have mercy but at some point the life of faith should bear fruit. Zaccheus is the example. Grace first - I'm coming to your house - followed by action - he stops cheating and gives half his stuff away to the poor.

  3. It's interesting to me that this parable immediately follows the Parable of Persistent Widow. This parable might modify the one that comes before it as perhaps it points to attitude in prayer, pointing back to Matthew 6:5-6 for example. But, to me the core of it is the problem of self-importance and mechanical religion. This Pharisee thought he had the corner on the righteousness market while at the same time looking down on someone else praying in that same place. Perhaps being close to God is understanding that God is God and that we are not God, and that God desires relationship with every person in His creation.