February 21, 2016

Are You a Publican or a Pharisee?

By Spyros Symeon

Today is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. A known parable of the Lord that has a depth of meaning even though it was spoken 2,000 years ago, and today it is heard throughout our churches and its sound reaches the ears of our conscience.

Two men, or essentially two brothers meet in the Temple, and the first, a Pharisee, is a ritualist who reveres God and keeps the commandments of God to the letter, in that he fasts, he does not commit fornication, he is not a thief nor is he unjust. However, he does make a judgment that is unjust. Why and when?

It is when he says that he is not like the Publican. He judges a brother by what he observes on the surface alone, viewing things with flimsy human eyes, elevating himself against another brother, against one who is in the image of God, against this Publican.

This Publican is sitting aloof from the sanctuary, and with complete humility and awareness of his unworthiness before God Himself, he does not lift up his eyes to heaven, and he makes supplication while strongly beating against his chest, begging and entreating the All-Good God to forgive him.

Forgive him for what? The specific act is not mentioned.

Perhaps forgive him because he experienced reality as a corruptible man and he is not able to keep all the commandments of God? Perhaps he views himself as the least and most unworthy before Him, as well as before every other person who is in the image of God?

This is how the Publican views things and he is humbled before God, and through God he ponders his own misdeeds while judging no one for their misdeeds. The misdeeds of others before God does not interest him, but only his own.

In his offenses he sees that he is weak and unworthy before his Creator and he seeks His mercy.

He does what the Pharisee doesn't, because the Pharisee has not experienced but simply complied with the rules because its the right thing to do and he must do it. He does not make it into an experience, he does not act with his heart, but out of obligation.

However, he commits two offenses which he cannot discern. One is that he has a big EGO and he overestimates himself and feels clean and law-abiding. The other is judgmentalism which is demonstrated by the comparison he makes when he says, "I am not like this Publican". By saying this he tries to show that he is higher than the Publican and a keeper of the law.

He is even "revealed" through his attitude, for he stands upright before God with conceit and confidence to pray, without seeing his mediocrity of not always fulfilling the laws of God.

Appearances often deceive. This Publican, who for that time did embarrassing work and even received unfavorable comments from his fellow countrymen, since he was the "executive" of the tax administration of the time and took taxes on behalf of the Romans which they imposed on the Jews, now kneels, begs and asks for forgiveness, and is humbled.

He is the one who returned home justified, for "whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

How many of us resemble the Pharisee?

Is there anyone among us that resembles the Publican?

What is it that we will choose when we return to our house? Do we seek to be justified before the eyes of God through our humility, or do we want to exalt our egocentricity over and against others, in order to show off and maintain our ego?

After 2,000 years, what do we choose? Are you a Publican or a Pharisee?

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.