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Luke 18:9-14 meaning...

This parable shared by Jesus contrasts the attitudes of a self-righteous Pharisee and a humble tax collector as they come to pray in the temple. 

  • Context of Self-Righteousness

Jesus begins the parable by addressing a specific audience—those who were "convinced of their own righteousness" and looked down on others. This context sets the stage for contrasting attitudes and illuminates the central theme of humility.

Pharisee's Prayer: The Pharisee's prayer reveals his self-righteous attitude. He not only thanks God for his perceived moral superiority but also highlights his religious practices, such as fasting and tithing.

Tax Collector's Humility: In contrast, the tax collector stands at a distance, acknowledging his own sinfulness. He doesn't boast of his deeds but humbly seeks God's mercy, beating his breast in a gesture of repentance.

  • Themes of Humility and Justification

The parable underscores essential themes related to humility and justification before God:

Humbling Oneself: The tax collector exemplifies humility by recognizing his need for God's mercy. His posture and words convey a sense of contrition and a genuine acknowledgment of personal shortcomings.

God's Justification: The surprising twist in the parable is that the tax collector, traditionally viewed as a societal outcast, goes home justified in God's eyes. This challenges preconceived notions of righteousness and highlights the importance of a humble heart.

  • Rejection of Self-Exaltation

The parable emphasizes the rejection of self-exaltation and pride:

Pharisee's Boasting: The Pharisee's prayer is marked by boasting and self-exaltation. His comparison with others and the enumeration of his righteous deeds reveal a heart filled with pride.

Spiritual Danger: The warning implicit in the parable suggests that those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Jesus often cautioned against the dangers of spiritual pride and the Pharisees' tendency to rely on their own righteousness.

Universal Application

While the parable addresses a specific context, its principles have universal application:

Spiritual Posture: The parable prompts believers to examine their own spiritual posture. Are they approaching God with humility, recognizing their dependence on His mercy, or are they self-assured in their righteousness?

Eradicating Pride: The parable challenges the human tendency to compare oneself favorably to others and to seek validation through external actions. It calls for the eradication of pride and the cultivation of a humble heart.


To deepen our understanding, let's explore other biblical passages that align with the themes presented in Luke 18:9-14.

James 4:6: "But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'" This New Testament verse echoes the theme of God's favor toward the humble.

Matthew 23:12: "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." This statement by Jesus in another context reinforces the principle highlighted in the parable.

Conclusion: Luke 18:9-14 presents a powerful parable illustrating the contrast between a self-righteous Pharisee and a humble tax collector. The central themes of humility, acknowledgment of sinfulness, and God's justification challenge believers to examine their own hearts and approach God with genuine humility. As individuals reflect on this parable, it encourages a posture of humility and reliance on God's mercy, recognizing that true righteousness comes from Him.

See also: vs 1-8,  & 13-14

Luke 18:9-14. He spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others. “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”


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