And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ Luke 18:13
Tax collectors in Roman occupied Judea did not enjoy a wholesome reputation. In the minds of the people they were the worst. Not soldiers who had conquered, their attitude might be understandable, but betrayers from within - Jews who sold out their nation for a profit. The tax agents had a master in Rome to satisfy, represented by the governor, and a people not to upset so badly that rebellion broke out. The Pharisee sect enjoyed a rather different reputation.
The Pharisees were the rule keepers heroes. They kept the Law of Moses to the letter and added a few hundred traditions on top which they also kept to the last jot and tittle. The Pharisees in some or perhaps all cases were also rather proud of themselves and liberally awarded themselves pats on the back for their piety. If human effort alone could save a man, these would have done so and proudly told God all about it. Then Jesus came.
You know the rest of the parable from Luke 18, the tax collector lives with God in our memory as the humble sinner who knew his place much like the repentant thief on the cross. The Pharisee carved a place for himself at the top of society and religion, and was a hero of the law in his own mind, a real self-made man. However, our Lord's opinion of the Pharisee was not one of approval.
It is tough to learn our place before God. Some will never admit that they need help to be saved, much less that salvation is the work of Christ alone. I had to be humbled first and so did you in order to ask Jesus to save us. How do I know you did? Well, all have sinned and pride will not come to the cross to be saved. Pride stands before the altar and proclaims how good he is. Humility stands before God and admits our need for His Son.Have a great new work week in Christ!