This coming Sunday is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in prayer in the Temple. Culpepper (Luke, 343) concludes his comments with:
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, contrary to some interpretations, is a two-sided parable. To read it as simply a warning against pride, self-sufficiency, or a relationship with God based on one’s own works is to miss the other side of the parable, which connects the Pharisee’s posture before God with his contempt for the tax collector. To miss this connection would be tantamount to emulating the Pharisee’s blindness to the implications of his attitude toward the tax collector. The nature of grace is paradoxical: It can be received only by those who have learned empathy for others. In that regard, grace partakes of the nature of mercy and forgiveness. Only the merciful can receive mercy, and only those who forgive will be forgiven (6:36-38). The Pharisee had enough religion to be virtuous, but not enough to be humble. As a result, his religion drove him away from the tax collector rather than toward him.
In its own way, this parable is as though a scene from Jesus’ teaching of the greatest commandments: to love God – and to love your neighbor as yourself. If we find our relationship to God in Jesus raises barriers to others, then we have embarked on the journey with blind spots that require healing.
Image credit: De Farizeeër en de tollenaar (The Pharisee and Publican), Barent Fabritius, 1661, Public Domain
Alan Culpepper, Luke in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995) pp. 340-43
Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997) pp. 643-49
Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, vol. 3 of Sacra Pagina, ed. Daniel J. Harrington (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991) pp. 269-74