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Luke 18:11

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Stood and prayed thus with himself - Some have proposed to render this, “stood by himself” and prayed. In this way it would be characteristic of the sect of the Pharisees, who dreaded the contact of others as polluting, and who were disposed to say to all, Stand by yourselves. The Syraic so renders it, but it is doubtful whether the Greek will allow this construction. If not, it means, he said over to himself what he had done, and what was the ground on which he expected the favour of God.

God, I thank thee - There was still in the prayer of the Pharisee an “appearance” of real religion. He did not profess to claim that he had made himself better than others. He was willing to acknowledge that God had done it for him, and that he had a right to his gratitude for it. Hypocrites are often the most orthodox in opinion of any class of people. They know the truth, and admit it. They use it frequently in their prayers and conversation. They will even persecute those who happen to differ from them in opinion, and who may be really wrong. We are not to judge of the “piety” of people by the fact that they admit the truth, or even that they use it often in their prayers. It is, however, not wrong to thank God that he has kept us from the gross sins which other people commit; but it should not be done in an ostentatious manner, nor should it be done forgetting still that we are great sinners and need pardon. These were the faults of the Pharisees.

Extortioners - Rapacious; avaricious; who take away the goods of others by force and violence. It means, also, those who take advantage of the necessities of others, the poor and the oppressed, and extort their property.

Unjust - They who are not fair and honest in their dealings; who get the property of others by “fraud.” They are distinguished from “extortioners” because they who are unjust may have the “appearance” of honesty; in the other case there is not.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
This parable was to convince some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. God sees with what disposition and design we come to him in holy ordinances. What the Pharisee said, shows that he trusted to himself that he was righteous. We may suppose he was free from gross and scandalous sins. All this was very well and commendable. Miserable is the condition of those who come short of the righteousness of this Pharisee, yet he was not accepted; and why not? He went up to the temple to pray, but was full of himself and his own goodness; the favour and grace of God he did not think worth asking. Let us beware of presenting proud devotions to the Lord, and of despising others. The publican's address to God was full of humility, and of repentance for sin, and desire toward God. His prayer was short, but to the purpose; God be merciful to me a sinner. Blessed be God, that we have this short prayer upon record, as an answered prayer; and that we are sure that he who prayed it, went to his house justified; for so shall we be, if we pray it, as he did, through Jesus Christ. He owned himself a sinner by nature, by practice, guilty before God. He had no dependence but upon the mercy of God; upon that alone he relied. And God's glory is to resist the proud, and give grace to the humble. Justification is of God in Christ; therefore the self-condemned, and not the self-righteous, are justified before God.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Stood and prayed thus with himself - Or, stood by himself and prayed, as some would translate the words. He probably supposed it disgraceful to appear to have any connection with this penitent publican: therefore his conduct seemed to say, "Stand by thyself; I am more holy than thou." He seems not only to have stood by himself, but also to have prayed by himself; neither associating in person nor in petitions with his poor guilty neighbor.

God, I thank thee, etc. - In Matthew 5:20, our Lord says, Unless your righteousness abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God: see the note there. Now, the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is described here by a Pharisee himself. We find it was twofold:

  1. It consisted in doing no harm to others.
  • In attending all the ordinances of God, then established in the Jewish economy; and in these things they were not like other men, the bulk of the inhabitants of the land paying little or no attention to them.
  • That the Pharisees were in their origin a pure and holy people can admit of little doubt; but that they had awfully degenerated before our Lord's time is sufficiently evident. They had lost the spirit of their institution, and retained nothing else than its external regulations. See on Matthew 16:1; (note).

    1. This Pharisee did no harm to others - I am not rapacious, nor unjust, nor an adulterer. I seize no man's property through false pretences. I take the advantage of no man's ignorance in buying or selling. I avoid every species of uncleanness. In a word, I do to others as I wish them to do to me. How many of those called Christians are not half as good as this Pharisee! And, yet, he was far from the kingdom of God.

    2. He observed the ordinances of religion - I fast twice in the week. The Jewish days of fasting, in each week, were the second and fifth; what we call Monday and Thursday. These were instituted in remembrance of Moses' going up to the mount to give the law, which they suppose to have been on the fifth day; and of his descent, after he had received the two tables, which they suppose was on the second day of the week.

    Ellen G. White
    Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 6

    The Sermon on the Mount is Heaven's benediction to the world—a voice from the throne of God. MB vii.1

    It was given to mankind to be to them the law of duty and the light of heaven, their hope and consolation in despondency, their joy and comfort in all the vicissitudes and walks of life. Here the Prince of preachers, the Master Teacher, utters the words that the Father gave Him to speak. MB vii.2

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    Ellen G. White
    The Desire of Ages, 495

    Full of instruction were the lessons which Christ taught as He slowly made His way from Galilee toward Jerusalem. Eagerly the people listened to His words. In Perea as in Galilee the people were less under the control of Jewish bigotry than in Judea, and His teaching found a response in their hearts. DA 495.1

    During these last months of His ministry, many of Christ's parables were spoken. The priests and rabbis pursued Him with ever-increasing bitterness, and His warnings to them He veiled in symbols. They could not mistake His meaning, yet they could find in His words nothing on which to ground an accusation against Him. In the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, the self-sufficient prayer, “God, I thank Thee that I am not as the rest of men,” stood out in sharp contrast to the penitent's plea, “Be merciful to me the sinner.” Luke 18:11, 13, R. V., margin. Thus Christ rebuked the hypocrisy of the Jews. And under the figures of the barren fig tree and the great supper He foretold the doom about to fall upon the impenitent nation. Those who had scornfully rejected the invitation to the gospel feast heard His warning words: “I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of My supper.” Luke 14:24. DA 495.2

    Very precious was the instruction given to the disciples. The parable of the importunate widow and the friend asking for bread at midnight gave new force to His words, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Luke 11:9. And often their wavering faith was strengthened by the memory that Christ had said, “Shall not God do justice for His elect, which cry to Him day and night, and He is long-suffering over them? I say unto you, that He will do them justice speedily.” Luke 18:7, 8, R. V., margin. DA 495.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 131

    If you will think less of yourself and more of the treasures in your household, giving due consideration to the members of your family and allowing them a proper exercise of their individual judgment, you will bring a blessing upon yourself and them, and will increase the respect they feel for you. 4T 131.1

    You have been inclined to look with a sort of contempt upon your brethren who were faulty, and who, because of their natural temperament, found it hard to overcome the evils that beset them. But Jesus pities them; He loves them and bears with their infirmities even as He does with yours. You do wrong to exalt yourself above those who are not so strong as you are. You do wrong to shut yourself up in a self-righteous spirit, thanking God that you are not like other men, but, that your faith and zeal exceed those of the poor, feeble ones striving to do right under discouragements and darkness. 4T 131.2

    Angels from a pure and holy heaven come to this polluted world to sympathize with the weakest, the most helpless and needy, while Christ Himself descended from His throne to help just such as these. You have no right to hold yourself aloof from these faltering ones, nor to assert your marked superiority over them. Come more in unison with Christ, pity the erring, lift up the hands that hang down, strengthen the feeble knees, and bid the fearful hearts be strong. Pity and help them, even as Christ has pitied you. 4T 131.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 416

    The law of God will be satisfied with nothing short of perfection, of perfect and entire obedience to all its claims. To come halfway to its requirements, and not render perfect and thorough obedience, will avail nothing. The worldling and the infidel admire consistency and have ever been powerfully convicted that God was of a truth with His people when their works correspond with their faith. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Every tree is known by its own fruits. Our words, our actions, are the fruit we bear. There are many who hear the sayings of Christ, but do them not. They make a profession, but their fruits are such as to disgust unbelievers. They are boastful, and pray and talk in a self-righteous manner, exalting themselves, recounting their good deeds, and, like the Pharisee, virtually thanking God that they are not as other men. Yet these very ones are crafty, and overreach in business deal. Their fruits are not good. Their words and acts are wrong, and yet they seem to be blinded to their destitute, wretched condition. 1T 416.1

    I was shown that the following scripture is applicable to those who are under such a deception: “Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” 1T 416.2

    Here is the greatest deception that can affect the human mind; these persons believe that they are right when they are wrong. They think that they are doing a great work in their religious life, but Jesus finally tears off their self-righteous covering and vividly presents before them the true picture of themselves in all their wrongs and deformity of religious character. They are found wanting when it is forever too late to have their wants supplied. God has provided means to correct the erring: yet if those who err, choose to follow their own judgment, and despise the means which He has ordained to correct them and unite them upon the truth, they will be brought into the position described by the words of our Lord quoted above. 1T 417.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Gospel Workers 1915, 140

    God desires to unite His workers by a common sympathy, a pure affection. It is the atmosphere of Christlike love surrounding the soul of the believer that makes him a savor of life unto life, and enables God to bless his efforts. Christianity builds no walls of separation between man and his fellow-man, but binds human beings to God and to one another. GW 140.1

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