Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 13: Two Worshipers
Based on Luke 18:9-14
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"Unto certain which trusted in themselves that they
were righteous, and despised others," Christ spoke the
parable of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee
goes up to the temple to worship, not because he feels that
he is a sinner in need of pardon, but because he thinks
himself righteous and hopes to win commendation. His
worship he regards as an act of merit that will recommend
him to God. At the same time it will give the people
a high opinion of his piety. He hopes to secure favor
with both God and man. His worship is prompted by
|The Two Worshipers.—Davis Collection.|
And he is full of self-praise. He looks it, he walks it,
he prays it. Drawing apart from others as if to say,
"Come not near to me; for I am holier than thou" (Isa.
65:5), he stands and prays "with himself." Wholly
self-satisfied, he thinks that God and men regard him with the
"God, I thank thee," he says, "that I am not as other
men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this [p. 151] publican." He judges his character, not by the holy
character of God, but by the character of other men. His
mind is turned away from God to humanity. This is the
secret of his self-satisfaction.
He proceeds to recount his good deeds: "I fast twice
in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." The
religion of the Pharisee does not touch the soul. He is
not seeking Godlikeness of character, a heart filled with
love and mercy. He is satisfied with a religion that has
to do only with outward life. His righteousness is
his own—the fruit of his own works—and judged by a
Whoever trusts in himself that he is righteous, will
despise others. As the Pharisee judges himself by other
men, so he judges other men by himself. His righteousness
is estimated by theirs, and the worse they are the more
righteous by contrast he appears. His self-righteousness
leads to accusing. "Other men" he condemns as
transgressors of God's law. Thus he is making manifest the
very spirit of Satan, the accuser of the brethren. With
this spirit it is impossible for him to enter into communion
with God. He goes down to his house destitute of the
The publican had gone to the temple with other
worshipers, but he soon drew apart from them as unworthy
to unite in their devotions. Standing afar off, he "would
not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote
upon his breast," in bitter anguish and self-abhorrence.
He felt that he had transgressed against God, that he was
sinful and polluted. He could not expect even pity from
those around him, for they looked upon him with contempt.
He knew that he had no merit to commend him to God,
and in utter self-despair he cried, "God be merciful to me,
a sinner." He did not compare himself with others. [p. 152] Overwhelmed with a sense of guilt, he stood as if alone
in God's presence. His only desire was for pardon and
peace, his only plea was the mercy of God. And he was
blessed. "I tell you," Christ said, "this man went down
to his house justified rather than the other."
The Pharisee and the publican represent two great
classes into which those who come to worship God are
divided. Their first two representatives are found in the
first two children that were born into the world. Cain
thought himself righteous, and he came to God with a
thank offering only. He made no confession of sin, and
acknowledged no need of mercy. But Abel came with
the blood that pointed to the Lamb of God. He came as
a sinner, confessing himself lost; his only hope was the
unmerited love of God. The Lord had respect to his
offering, but to Cain and his offering He had not respect.
The sense of need, the recognition of our poverty and sin,
is the very first condition of acceptance with God. "Blessed
are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
For each of the classes represented by the Pharisee and
the publican there is a lesson in the history of the apostle
Peter. In his early discipleship Peter thought himself
strong. Like the Pharisee, in his own estimation he was
"not as other men are." When Christ on the eve of His
betrayal forewarned His disciples, "All ye shall be offended
because of Me this night," Peter confidently declared,
"Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." Mark
14:27, 29. Peter did not know his own danger.
Self-confidence misled him. He thought himself able to
withstand temptation; but in a few short hours the test came,
and with cursing and swearing he denied his Lord.
When the crowing of the cock reminded him of the
words of Christ, surprised and shocked at what he had just [p. 154] done he turned and looked at his Master. At that moment
Christ looked at Peter, and beneath that grieved look, in
which compassion and love for him were blended, Peter
understood himself. He went out and wept bitterly. That
look of Christ's broke his heart. Peter had come to the
turning point, and bitterly did he repent his sin. He was
like the publican in his contrition and repentance, and like
the publican he found mercy. The look of Christ assured
him of pardon.
Now his self-confidence was gone. Never again were
the old boastful assertions repeated.
Christ after His resurrection thrice tested Peter.
"Simon, son of Jonas," He said, "lovest thou Me more than
these?" Peter did not now exalt himself above his brethren.
He appealed to the One who could read His heart.
"Lord," he said, "Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest
that I love Thee." John 21:15, 17.
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