Two Approaches to Righteousness

Sermon Manuscript: Two Approaches to Righteousness

The story of the Parable and the Tax Collector is among the best known parables of the Bible. In it our Lord tells the story of two men. One who was moral and outwardly good and the other sinner. He then contrasts the lives of these two men to raise an important question, “How can we be right before God?” I am sure that everyone in Jesus’ audience felt confident that they had a good answer to this question. Yet, as Jesus so often did, he takes what we think to be true and challenges our assumptions. Today we will examine this parable and consider again what it means to be right before God.

 Before recounting the parable, it is important to consider the makeup of the crowd to which Jesus spoke. Surely, there were those who were of little influence, wisdom, or religious significance. Such people might be disciples or seekers or sinners. However, Luke provides some insight regarding others in the crowd who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt”. Notice our Lord does not tell this parable about those who trusted in themselves for righteousness, rather, he speaks directly to them. In doing so, he presents two contrasting approaches to God; one is by our own good works and self-righteousness, the other on the basis of God’s mercy.