the_pharisee_and_the_tax_collector

It is not uncommon for people to have a very lopsided view of Jesus (and consequently God). Some see only his tenderness. Others see only his toughness. The written accounts we have though suggest Jesus was both. Tender on the downtrodden. Tough on those doing the treading. Tender on the humble. Tough on the proud. You can see this at work in his parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. It goes like this:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—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 all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Jesus was tender to the tax collector, who would have been viewed by many as a traitor to his own people, and tough on the Pharisee, who would have been viewed by many as an example for his own people. Why? Because the Pharisee, the religious leader, was judgemental, whilst the tax collector, who had come to recognise his failings, was not. The tenderness and toughness of Jesus is two sides of the same coin.

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