Jesus draws for us the image of a person who is righteous.
The Pharisee’s righteousness is not in question, it is impressive. The unrighteousness of the tax-collector is also not in doubt.
This is one of those parables where Jesus turns the world up-side down: the good do not find favour with God; the bad do find favour with God.
Jesus tries to explain this up-side down-ness by giving us a glimpse into the private prayer life of these people. The prayers Jesus tells us about are odd, they seem out of character. Who would ever pray: “Thank you God that I am not that bad”? Since this parable we have of course not stopped praying: “Lord, have mercy”. I wonder whether our “Lord, have mercy” is more like the two times fasting every week of the Pharisee than like the prayer of tax-collector.
Ultimately I think the parable is about the surprises that the Kingdom of God holds and about how we regard people. Everybody, also those nasty bullies, are God’s children. Viewing yourself, or your beliefs (Christianity), or your values as superior to others is a sure way of falling out of favour with God.
23 October 2016
This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.