Tax Collectors

Claudia Elzinga

READ : Luke 18–20

The parable of the publican and the Pharisee was told to “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others” (18:9). We must examine ourselves to see if that describes us. Tax collectors, called “publicans” in earlier versions, were hated for two reasons: they worked for the hated Romans who ruled the land, and they took unfair advantage of their position to make money at the expense of their countrymen. On the other hand, the Pharisees were the self-acclaimed religious leaders who were highly respected by most of the population. It was not good to be a publican. But their situation made them much more open to repentance than did that of the Pharisee. It was the repentance of individual tax collectors which Christ praised. It was the spiritual pride and hypocrisy of most Pharisees which Jesus condemned.

In Jericho a tax collector met Jesus. He was a little man named Zacchaeus. He was very anxious to meet Jesus, perhaps because he had heard this was one man who would not despise him. Jesus chose to stay at this man’s house, and this led to a decision on the part of Zacchaeus to show his repentance by giving a great deal to the poor and repaying all those whom he had defrauded along with the additional penalty called for in the Old Testament. Let us repent and show it.


Father, forgive us for ways in which we have been like the publican or like the Pharisee. In Jesus’ name. Amen.