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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 evil-doers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. Luke 18:10-12

Listen: Luke 18


Jesus tells the intriguing story of two men who go to the Temple to pray. One was a religious leader and the other a despised tax collector. The contrast Jesus draws centers on their generosity. By all appearances, the Pharisee would have been described as extremely generous. After all, he “gave a tenth” of all he had. On the other hand, “generous” would never have been used to describe a tax collector. They collected taxes for the hated Roman government and were known to “take their cut off the top.” In many cases, it was legalized extortion.

But if you read on, you find out that only the tax collector recognized his deep need for God’s mercy. “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Recognizing his need for God’s grace, he was the one in the best position to be able to show mercy and forgiveness to others. Like the tax collector, our starting point for forgiveness is a clear awareness of our own sin. We each need to be fully convinced that our sins are “felonies” not “misdemeanors” and recognize that we have committed these “crimes” against a holy and righteous God. If we think we’re guilty only of misdemeanors and that we’re not that bad (like the Pharisees)—we’ll see no need for forgiveness. Self-righteousness leads to a lack of forgiveness.


Recognizing the seriousness of our sin is often the first step towards a life of forgiveness. The lyrics of John Newton’s classic hymn state this well, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…” Listen to Chris Tomlin’s remake of Newton’s timeless song. Be reminded of both the seriousness of your sin as well as God’s amazing grace—grace that makes forgiveness possible.

Download a printable PDF of the BTW week here.