The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

“God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” That is the prayer of the tax-collector from the story of the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector. It is a prayer that we sometimes have trouble saying. 

As I write this, I am sitting in Einstein’s near TCU’s campus. Every morning which I pick up bagels and coffee here, I see a bible study going on led by a young hipster man (maybe 28 years old) and TCU students. From my observations and research, I’ve found out that Young Life is the group that this bible study group is associated with. I do not agree with Young Life in their theology and practice. They are a little close-minded in theology, and they often prey on the societal structures of high schools to gain members: they like to focus on the “popular” kids at school in hopes of attracting the others. 

As I sat in my booth and noticed the group, one of the students had given the leader the book Living Buddha, Living Christ by Tich Nhat Hanh. It is a wonderful book that blends Buddhism and Christianity into a sort of dual-religion. Perfect for the great monk. Not for me. But that’s okay, I’ve read it and gleaned wisdom from this wise sage. 

Back to the story at hand. The leader looked upon the book with suspicion as the student explained why he brought the book. The student obviously found meaning behind Tich Nhat Hanh’s words about mindfulness, as did I. However, the leader seemed skeptical at best, and dismissed the book. 

The thought that went through my head as I watched this man dash something one of his students valued to the rocks was, “Thank God I’m not like him.” In that moment I remembered the beginning story. I was a Pharisee. No one had to tell me. I knew it myself because that is the exact thing the Pharisee said in Luke 18:11, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people.” 

I quickly changed my tenor. Judgemental is not something that I want to be, regardless of if I believe the theology of another to be suspect. As the current Pope said, “Who am I to judge?” I have my own problems, as evidenced by my Pharisitic thought. Let this be a present day parable for me. Will and the Young-Life Leader. 

God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner. 


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