This sinner, not the Pharisee

(J. C. Philpot, "Spiritual Fruit" 1858)

The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this
prayer: "I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like
everyone else, especially like that publican over there!
For I never cheat, I don't sin, I don't commit adultery,
I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my
income." Luke 18:11-12

Man unites in himself, what at first sight seem to
be completely opposite things. He is the greatest
of sinners--and yet the greatest of Pharisees.

Now, what two things can be so opposed to each
other as sin and self-righteousness? Yet the very
same man who is a sinner from top to toe, with the
whole head sick and the whole heart faint--who is
spiritually nothing else but a leper throughout--how
contradictory it appears that the same man has in
his own heart a most stubborn self-righteousness!

Now, against these two evils God, so to speak, directs
His whole artillery--He spares neither one nor the other.

But it is hard to say which is the greatest rebellion
against God--the existence of sin in man and what he
is as a fallen sinner--or his Pharisaism, the lifting up
his head in pride of self-righteousness.

It is not easy to decide which is the more obnoxious
to God
--the drunkard who sins without shame--or the
Pharisee puffed up with how pleasing he is to God.

The one is abhorrent to our feelings--and, as far as
decency and morality are concerned, we would rather
see the Pharisee. But when we come to matters of
true religion, the Pharisee seems the worst! At least
our Lord intimated as much when He said the publicans
and harlots would enter the kingdom of God before them.

"But the publican stood at a distance and dared not
even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he
beat his chest in sorrow, saying, 'O God, be merciful
to me, for I am a sinner!'

I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home
justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself
will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be
exalted." Luke 18:13-14