Sample Sermon Outline: Hope for the Non-Religious: The Pharisee and Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)

This sermon outline of Luke 18:9-14 is offered as one of many that could be adapted and used in a sermon series on preaching hope. (click here for more preaching resources)


Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem (Luke 17:11)
Questions about coming of the Kingdom of God (KOG):

  • 17:21 ‘KOG among you/with you’
  • 17:22 ‘KOG coming’
  • 18:1ff encouragements to preserve in prayer in unjust world, waiting for justice and the KOG
  • 18:8 question ‘Will he find faith’ when he comes?

In Luke chapter 18 we see the surprising citizens of the Kingdom of God

Note contrasts and surprises …

  • In 18:9-14, it is the tax collector/sinner not the Pharisee/religious person who is justified.
  • In 18:15-17, it is the children – humble dependent, small, unimportant who are welcomed.
  • In 18:18ff, it is the disciples who have left everything to follow him, not the rich young ruler who looked like a certainty as candidate for the Kingdom of God.

Possible Sermon Outline:

  1. Outward Appearances
  2. Two Men go to pray. Luke 18:9-14
    • First impressions
      • the good man (v10-12)
      • the bad man (v13)
    • The real story
      • the proud man (v10-12)
      • the humble man (v13)
    • The scandalous verdict (v14)
      • Seriously?
      • But how can Jesus show mercy to sinners?
  3. Bad news for the ‘Religious’
    • externals count for nothing
    • self awareness- how easily we overlook ‘acceptable sins’
    • the danger of the side-wards glance – moral superiority
  4. Good news and Hope for the humble and non religious
    • A humble contrite heart God will not despise – how good!
    • Be humble or be humbled
    • Will he find faith here today in this church? In you?

Notes on Luke 18:9-14

In Luke 18:9 Jesus tells us the purpose of the story – ‘self righteousness and looking down on others’ are just as big a problem as being a robber or adulterer.

First glance we meet a good man and a bad man.
Even today that would be a very common view of who is acceptable to God. The religious person who is on the surface a ‘good’ person. No obvious evils vs the ‘sinner’ – a tax collector, lowest of low, collaborator with the Roman overlords, note for dishonesty and greed. Social outcasts. By most estimates – a bad man (used car salesman, guy who runs a peep show in the red light district, etc)

But on a closer look we see something else – we meet a proud self righteous man and a humble contrite man. Heart inner man view/How God sees things.

In Luke 19:14 Jesus gives a scandalous verdict that must have shocked and surprised.

It still does today – good people go to heaven , bad people go to hell (or in some minds return worse off in great cycle of life, karma)
Jesus says actually humble repentant contrite sinners go to heaven, proud self righteous people go to hell (because they do not ask for mercy nor think there is a problem with them and God)

Note the Pharisee does not ask from anything from God.
The tax collector by contrast humbly seeks mercy from God.
The temple was where you came for mercy and forgiveness, where atonement was found . The Pharisee does not think he needs any of that.

Note his ‘I’ language. ‘I have done ..’ it is all performance, self righteousness (note Jesus earlier on Pharisees 16:15). Several issues here:

  • External performance counts for nothing, internal contrite hearts are what God looks at.
  • Even if he was a ‘good’ person in terms of the commandments, that is only what God expects of his servants, so how is that to his credit/merit?
  • He is blind to his proud and dismissive and judgmental heart. How easily we assess ourselves against a standard we think we can meet and over look or dismiss what we deem ‘acceptable sins’ – pride, self righteousness, judgementalism, lack of love and compassion, covetousness, lack of generosity, etc . God hates that stuff and so do most of us when we
    see it in others!
  • We are masters of the sidewards glance .. how easily we judge ourselves against others who look worse than us morally or socially and so feel acceptable about ourselves.

There are lots of Pharisees in our churches … check your own heart!
But take care because we easily begin to think ‘Thank God I am not like those Pharisees …’.
And we are back into the very problem Jesus is addressing !!

There is hope for the humble, the broken, the sinners at the throne of grace
There is a promise here ‘they will be exalted’ v14 because they seek mercy and are humble.

There is a warning for the proud and self righteous … you will not be justified before God and you will be humbled … That is not how the Kingdom of God works. Only by humble recognition of sin and seeking God’s mercy will ANYONE enter God’s Kingdom!

Sin matters, it matters so much that Jesus comes to deal with it by his own death FOR us.
That is where Jesus is headed to the cross to deal with our sin

So will we humble ourselves and ask for mercy from Jesus?
So will Jesus find faith in us when he returns?