The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Let’s set the stage:

Two people, one admired for his discipline, years of study, and prestige. He is an example of how to live and be successful.

Another man, with a job and lifestyle that everyone else despises. A traitor, a turncoat, a selfish “in it for me” type.

Jesus pits these 2 men against each other, in a Who-will-win-with-God contest. Both are praying. Who is God going to be pleased with?

The obvious answer: the “good guy,” right?

The surprise: the “bad guy” wins favor with God. The tax collector receives forgiveness and the Pharisee does not.


Do you ever feel less, because you haven’t read your Bible cover to cover (again)?

Do you listen to others when they pray and wish you could pray out loud, or feel self-conscious when you do?

Do you worry because you missed church (again)? Wonder if you are good enough?

Is your prayer life not what it could be?

All these feelings of “not good enough” are all what the “bad guy” in Jesus’s story might have felt.

Look, in the Facebook era of spirituality, where everyone else seems more dedicated, educated, or popular at church we are all faced with the Fear of Not Being Enough.

Solution: Surrender!

When you pray, don’t worry about what to say. Don’t worry you didn’t make it to church, don’t worry about whether you were good enough yesterday, or last week. Just cry out to God, and then rest.

Rest in his presence.

Truth: The Bible is *very specific* that good works don’t earn you favor with God.

Yet we still feel a little jealous of those other Christians who are a little bit more together than we are. We still want a little bit more.

“Did you read (that new book by that Christian author)?” No. I didn’t. And to be honest I don’t really want to. But I can’t say that out loud.

“Are you coming to (some event all the good people are going to)”. No, I’m not. Does that make me a bad person?

You get my point right? When you compare your spirituality with others you will either always fall short, or you will feel ever so slightly smug about it. And now you’ve crossed the line into “Pharisee”.


What you can do is just be honest, between you and God, and give up. God loves when you give up trying to be righteous on your own.

You can wear yourself out trying to be good, or, you can give it up and just seek forgiveness.

Just present yourself, warts and all, and hang out with God. Just sit quietly for a few minutes.

It’s simple. Like this:

“God, I’m not perfect, I fall short everyday. But I’m here, right now, and I recognize you are here too, with me.”

Then, just stop and sit there for a few minutes and just absorb that truth: Almighty God is here, with you, right now. Don’t “pray” or think “elevated thoughts” about the Bible or anything like that. Just become aware of his presence.

After a while, you’ll stop. You’ll move on with your day.

And you will have meditated.  You’ll feel different, you’ll have a new perspective.  Things will shift, gently, to the better.

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  1. Thank you Dean. This is such a wonderful reminder & comfort to me as I have been ill with a head cold & not able to do much of anything. It can be a frustrating & frightening place to be BUT the Truth is….. it’s a great opportunity to rest, find peace, comfort & healing just “resting” in my Heavenly Father’s strong, gentle, loving arms. Bless you, your family & your ministry. Marg

  2. Amen! I haven’t felt up to much and sometimes it is easy to feel useless. As you said and as my brother also reminded me a few weeks ago – it is useless to compare ourselves to others. Situations and other dynamics make comparisons or efforts to compare futile.

    I do love getting your thought provoking emails now and then.
    Thank you Dianne

  3. Nailed it for me today! Lately I have been feeling “less than” and I really was beginning to feel as if I wasn’t measuring up. I seriously needed this reminder that it’s not what I do – it’s who I am in Him. Thank you!