One Great Parable

Do you have a list of favorite Bible stories? If I were to examine everyone’s list, I would likely encounter great examples of faith like Abraham offering Isaac or David facing Goliath. Some may list displays of God’s power that we see with Elijah at Mt. Carmel. I am sure Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son would make the list as it powerfully illustrates God’s love and grace. On my list, near the top would be Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, found in Luke 18:9-17. In only 6 verses, it clearly explains the gospel while bringing me a strange mix of both conviction and mercy. Though short, it packs a gospel punch that easily leads me to Jesus. 

As we begin, it would be easy to gloss over Luke’s introductory verse. But it is key to preparing our hearts for the grace Jesus will share. Luke begins, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” (Luke 18:9)

From the beginning, we see Jesus is addressing the vital connection between our faith and our treatment of others. Many of the religious rulers around Jesus embodied a nearly universal principle: the better we think we are, the worse we often treat others. If you don’t believe me, try to think of someone who was simultaneously humble and rude. Or how many people do you know that embody both arrogance and kindness? You may have better luck finding a flying unicorn.

How does this prepare our hearts for the gospel truth Jesus will share? All of us have been on either the giving or receiving end when it comes to contempt. Some may relate to both. To the self-righteous, Jesus calls for repentance. As our misplaced trust in ourselves is revealed, we are better prepared to trust in Jesus. 

To those who may be looked down on or see themselves as unworthy, Jesus calls for faith. He doesn’t call for anyone to be better and earn God’s grace; He calls for simple faith in Him. One of the beauties of the gospel is this: a need for Jesus is the only requirement. 

To prepare our hearts for one of Jesus’ greatest parables, begin by examining where your trust lies. Repent of any reliance on yourself to measure up to God, no matter how great or little you may be in your own eyes. Ask the Holy Spirit to rid your heart of faith in yourself as He makes room for more faith in Jesus. Then read the complete parable in Luke 18:9-15.

By Philip Jones

Philip and his wife, Stacy, have been attending Immanuel since 2015. They are blessed to be raising four kids. His passion in ministry is to help others follow Jesus through teaching, preaching, and personal discipleship.






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