The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax (toll) Collector

Proper 25, Year C

Joel 2:23-32
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Luke 18:9-15

9 He also told this parable[a] to some[b] who trusted[c] in themselves[d] that[e] they were righteous[f] and regarded others with contempt:[g]
10 “Two men went up[h] to the temple to pray,[i] one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.[j] 11The Pharisee, standing by himself,[k] was praying[l] thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’[m]
13 But the tax collector, standing far off,[n] would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast[o] and saying, ‘God, be merciful[p] to me, a sinner!’[q]
14 I tell you, this man went down to his home[r] justified[s] rather than the other; for all who exalt[t] themselves will be humbled,[u] but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”


General Comments:

This parable is the last part of Luke’s Travel account (9:51-18:14), and the beginning of a new section (18:9ff.). There are many themes in the parable that parallel others in Luke. First, there are those that contrast the behavior of two people. See 15:11-32; 16:19—31; Mt. 21:28-32).  Second, is the motif of reversal that runs throughout the Gospel. See 1:51; 6:20-26; 16:19-31. And finally, in addition to its being about two separate types of piety, it also reflects Jesus’ ongoing concern for those who were forgotten or disdained in Palestinian society. In this case, the much maligned (usually justifiably so) toll collector. See 5:29-32; 7:36-50.

It is a story that has no parallel in the other gospels, and according to most commentators, it is derived (like much before it) from Luke’s special source (“L”). Many commentators have suggested that this parable is intentionally linked to the previous parable in last week’s Gospel reading (the one about the woman insisting on justice from an unjust judge) because both are related to the theme of prayer. The first parable’s theme was that we should pray incessantly and never give up. This one is that we should pray for mercy. Interpreter’s quotes Peter Rhea Jones’ characterization of the two parables as ‘the promise of persistent prayer’ (18:1-8) and ‘the peril of presumptuous prayer’ (vv. 9-14).[v] “The first is a word of encouragement,” says Raymond Bailey, “to those who may find themselves in despair; the second is directed to those who err on the side of spiritual self-sufficiency.”[w] For what it’s worth, Fitzmyer, in his Anchor Bible commentary disagrees. And in any case, few, if any, believe that Jesus told the stories back to back in the way they are found here. Luke most likely wanted to show two different problems with prayer, one the despair at not hearing an answer and the other of being too full of oneself while praying. As such they could lend themselves to pairing in a sermon. “Most congregations,” Bailey says, “will include persons all along the spectrum who struggle with the efficacy of prayer and prayer as an instrument of transformation.”[x]

In my personal experience, many (perhaps most) of my parishioners have felt the first problem more often than the second. That is, they have been taught (or believe “genetically”) that when they pray for God to alleviate their pain or hardship or suffering, God will do it. Of course, in real life God seldom, if ever, does that. They pray and pray for God to change something and little or nothing happens. So their faith gets challenged and they begin to lean towards quitting believing or quitting praying. It’s an unnecessary choice, but one forced on them by a belief in a magical—instead of spiritual—religion. I think I’ve personally preached and counseled against magical religion in all of my churches for over forty years and I have yet to meet one person who I have convinced. People just can’t (or don’t want to) let go of the notion of a God who will heal their mother in the hospital and they can’t (easily, without work) imagine or conceive of any other definition of “faith” that does not include magic. It may well be that the failure of magical religion is at least one of the key driving forces in the decline of faith and churches today.

A few words on the structure and placement of the parable:
The actual boundaries of the parable itself are usually said to be vv. 10-14a. Verses 9 and 14 b are probably additions, and were probably added by Luke himself. Probably his commentary on the parable and not part of the parable itself.

Verse 14b is usually thought of as a “doublet,” by which we do not mean a snug British jacket with double lining, but a phrase or aphorism repeated twice within the same Gospel or Gospel tradition (like “Q”). The other half of this doublet is found in Luke 14:11 (where it is paired with Matthew 23:12 and both are drawn from “Q”)[y]

Luke 14:11, “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Mt. 23:12, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Fitzmyer agrees that the line is added but thinks it unlikely that Luke added it himself. Instead, he suspects that Luke found it in a general form in his sources (“L” since this story is not found in either Mark or Matt.), and perhaps redacted it a bit to make it sound more like Luke 14:11. In general, Fitzmyer says, Luke does not care much for “doublets,” and wouldn’t typically create one on his own.[z] There are other passages to which this parable has some connection, and they include:

Luke 15, the chapter with the “lost” parables. Because of its emphasis on mercy.
Luke 5:29-32, the story of Jesus being invited to a meal with the toll collectors and the self-righteous Pharisees chastising him for it.

Another thing that is unclear in the passage (and possibly more important than the question of the origin of doublets) is to whom Jesus was speaking (see my exegetical notes on v. 9). Is he speaking to a group of Pharisees who were vain bloviators, or simply talking about them? And he can’t really be suggesting that only Pharisees were like this (after all, his own disciples were guilty of a little elitism on occasion), or even that all Pharisees did it. Jesus is targeting everyone. Luke agrees. His addition of the doublet at the end, “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted” disallows an application of the parable to any one group. All human beings have bloviated vainly at one time or another and looked down on someone else when we did it, so if the Blov fits, wear it. In your sermon, don’t move too quickly to the sincere confession of the Toll Collector without pausing for a moment on the equally sincere self-righteous pomposity of the Pharisee and of ourselves.

Where did the story come from? Can we tell anything about its origins? Possibly. Given that there was a strong pursuit of righteousness (and self-righteousness) among the Pharisees and religious leaders of the time, it is likely that people occasionally (or often) called on Jesus to weigh in on the subject of prayer. It is also possible, then, that this story reflects his opinion on that contemporary debate. Fitzmyer agrees, saying that “this parable records his [Jesus’] attitude toward such a pursuit”[aa]

I think it’s also possible that the story comes from observing two actual people. The story has a strong appeal to it because it has a feel of real life (though exaggerated), and that may be because there were real people behind it. (See the prayer quoted below from a contemporary of Jesus in the Qumran community.) The story contrasts one person who believes that rigidly fulfilling the law will contribute to bringing in the Kingdom of God), and another who is authentically grieved over his behavior. One is proud of his good works and the other is ashamed of what he has done. One wants approval, the other wants forgiveness. That’s the stuff of fiction, but also ripped right out of “normal” human relations.

Before you go to great lengths to malign the Pharisee, first take a few moments to admit that he’s not a bad man. The two things he lists as his accomplishments are not bad. He fasts twice a week, which could actually be a powerful spiritual discipline, a way of feeling our bodies and our closeness with God, a way of understanding sacrifice, something all of us could use. It was considered a mark of deep spirituality in his day. The second was that he tithed, he gave away ten percent of all of his income.

A tithe in the first century was one way of helping feed the hungry. By Jesus’ day the small family farms had almost all disappeared. They were stolen by huge, wealthy farm conglomerates. Farmers had gotten behind on their loans (sometimes as high as thirty and forty percent) and had a first century version of foreclosure on their famers. Many of them became debt slaves, some became tenants on their old farms. Some became homeless and starved. It wasn’t pretty. So, legislation was “passed” that said that farmers (meaning mainly the wealthy) had to tithe ten percent of their produce to give to those who did not have farms (which usually meant the very poor). It was a redistributional program to help the hungry. Also people who produced other items could be “taxed” on that produce as well and the value given to the poor. (Incidentally, there were many who scammed this system by claiming the produce even though they were wealthy, because they were not farm owners.) The interesting thing about our Pharisee is that Jesus portrays him of not only tithing, but tithing from all of his income. that was probably quite a lot. So, before we are too harsh on him, keep in mind that he was trying to do good. (How many of your parishioners can claim that they tithe on all of their income? (That’s gross, not net.)

There are two issues related to the Pharisee’s prayer, and both of them could be used in your introduction of him in your sermon. . The first is the underlying theological assumption in his listing of his good deeds. He seems to be listing them to show that he is good, not because he actually is. He seems to want to brag to God so that he will receive God’s justification. Not because he has already received it. That’s putting the cart before the horse. The second is that he looks down on the others around him. Luke introduces the parable with both of those: he says that Jesus “told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt.” Both of these come out in his later prayer too.

Most sermons tend to move too quickly to the humility of the Tax Collector, but most of us are also on occasion guilty of boasting of our goodness so that we might buy God’s (or others’) favor and of looking down on others around us to make ourselves look good by comparison. Even Jesus Disciples were guilty of a little (occasionally a lot) of elitism toward their neighbors. It’s universal, and something we could stand to confess in our own personal prayers now and then.

The emphasis at the last verse end on righteousness being achieved by confession of sin sounds a little like Paul (who may in fact have been a colleague of Luke’s). While, on the one hand, as Jeremias says, “the Pauline doctrine of justification has its roots in the teaching of Jesus,”[bb] on the other hand, as Fitzmyer says, “it’s still a far cry from justification by grace through faith,”[cc] meaning that neither one go as far as Martin Luther and Lutheran theology. It has no reference to the saving act of the cross and it is justification rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures not the post-Jesus Gospel. It never transcends, or goes beyond, the theology of the Old Testament. Craddock adds that this theology “is as old as the Garden of Eden, the tower of Babel and Jonah’s mission to Nineveh.”[dd]

It might be interesting to reflect in your sermon on the ways that politicians handle confession. Typically (though not universally) conservatives caution against confession. They say it is more important to stand strong and not admit weakness, and never ask for forgiveness. Liberals (especially those who are not in office) say that you can’t be strong until you stare at your shortcomings and admit them. Liberals say it is healthy and good to admit that we have been a nation of slave owners and racists and war mongers and polluters, that have, in spite of our other good things, have wreaked a lot of havoc upon minorities at home and nations abroad. Conservatives tend to have a far more generous view of our history and far more frequently say that we shouldn’t dwell on the past, and that we need to move on. Those are both generalities, but basically do describe our national stances on our past shortcomings. Are those positions totally political or do they represent something deeper and more theological? Is there a tendency within the conservative mind that blocks introspection? Is there a tendency within the liberal mind that wallows in it? Do conservatives tend to overdo pride and self-congratulation? Do liberals tend to succumb to self-deprecation and depression? And, is there a way of pondering that thought in a sermon without alienating one side or the other?

Turn to the breast-beating Toll Collector for a moment. It’s notoriously difficult to get inside the mind of Jesus when he spins a parable filled with archetypal characters and symbols. But I get the sense that the Toll Collector here is not just sinning, but also very much caught in the sin. If it was easy to quit doing what he is confessing, then he would have done it already. His anguish sounds like someone who is entangled in a pattern of behaviors that is torturing him, but the challenge of getting out of it is equally torturous. It may be a particular job that is demanding and evil and damaging that he can’t let go of. In the parable's storyline, his job is to work for the enemy of his people, and in order to put food on the table he has to steal a bit from his boss and a little from his neighbors. How does he sleep at night? Today it could be someone who is working on Wall Street and who knows that his (or her) activities are at least immoral if not illegal and have driven many into poverty, but he does it because he is caught in a lifestyle that he can't get out of. I want to be successful to my family, but to do so I have to destroy other peoples’ families. To confess his crimes publicly would mean jail time at worst, and banishment from the financial world at best. His wife would leave him. How can he resolve that?

It could be someone who is stuck in an extramarital affair. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but he actually does love the woman and she does love him (and she feels equally torn over the affair). The relationship fills him and fulfills him and he feels stronger and more complete in her presence. They are good for each other. But she also has a husband and kids. She loves her kids. She can't leave them. That would destroy them. But in their relationship a little piece of them is also being destroyed. What do they do?

It could be a crime he has committed and one that he has gotten away with, a crime for which he now feels overwhelming remorse. To do the right thing would be to confess, that would be the right thing. But to do that would ruin him for the rest of his life. And he has a family to support. And he loves them. What is left for him to do but to beat his chest and cry?

Do you know the old Woody Allen movie, “Crimes and Misdemeanors”? It has to do with a married man who had an affair that went badly and she threatened to tell his wife. He tells this to his shady brother-in-law, who responds by having her killed. The man then falls into a pit of grief and guilt and despair. He knows he deserves to be punished because he has done a terrible thing, but nothing happens. He isn’t found out. He gets away with it, legally, but inside he lives the rest of his life beating his chest (metaphorically) and begging God for forgiveness.[ee]

Verse by verse comments

Verse 9, “…told this parable to some who trusted in themselves.”
The word pros (some or many), at the beginning of this sentence may indicate the persons to whom the parable is addressed or possibly the people ‘against’ whom it is directed (cf. 20:19). That the Pharisees are meant becomes clear from v. 10, and probably did not need to be spelled out here.[ff]

Verse 10 “Two men went up to pray, one a Pharisee…”
“Went up to pray”: They went up from the lower city to the temple mount. “Whether coming from north, south, east or west, people always ‘went up’ to Jerusalem and the Temple was situated at the highest point in the city, above the Kidron Valley to the east and the older city of David to the south.[gg] The hours of prayer, when translated into our times, would be from about 9 am to 3 pm.
“Pharisee.” The Greek word, pharisaios, is telling, in that it means the “separated one,” “denoting their aloofness from others, including many other Jews.”[hh]

Verses 11-12        The Pharisee, “Standing by himself”
The name, “Pharisee,” as we noted, means one who is separate, but that was for cleanliness, holiness reasons. It’s difficult not to think that in addition to that, Jesus chose a Pharisee for his foil because in the story he not only is a part due to his office, but also due to his desire to not be a part of the rabble around him. He physically stands away from everyone else.

It’s interesting to note that both prayers begin with the simple “God.” But the one of the Pharisee continues immediately in the first person, and the initial characterization of the Pharisee as someone who viewed others with contempt is born out by the words of his prayer.

Jeremias quotes an interesting parallel to the prayer of the Pharisee found in the Talmud of the first century. It shows that the prayer of our Pharisee is not impossible, and perhaps not even unusual:
I thank thee, O Lord, my God, that thou hast given me my lot with those who sit in the seat of learning, and not with those who sit at the street-corners; for I am early to work, and they are early to work; I am early to work on the words of the Torah, and they are early to work on things of no moment. I weary myself, and they weary themselves; I weary myself and profit thereby, while they weary themselves to no profit. I run and they run; I run towards the life of the Age to Come, and they run towards the pit of destruction.[ii]

        Matthew 6:5
“... whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others....” See also Mark 11:25.

“I fast twice a week”
“While the law prescribed only one annual fast, namely that on the Day of Atonement, he fasted voluntarily twice a week, on Monday and Thursday, probably in intercession for the sins of the people.”[jj] Wanting to distance themselves from the Pharisees, the early Christians chose different days on which to fast. The Didache (about the year 120), said to Christians, “Let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays, but do you fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.”[kk]

“I give a tenth of all of my income”
For examples and teachings on tithing, see Luke 11:42; Gen. 14:20; Num 18:21-24; Deut 14:22-26; Mal 3:8-10. Interesting to note that “the Pharisee does not just offer a tithe on those foods or animals for which a tithe is specifically required, but tithes all of is income.”[ll]

The issue here is not that the Pharisee is a bad man—he actually is doing good—or that the Toll Collector is bad—his vocation was considered traitorous. Jesus “does not dispute the toll collector’s self-evaluation: the man is correct—he is a ‘sinner.’ And Jesus does not dispute the Pharisee’s self-evaluation—he does fast and give tithes, and in this respect he is different from the notorious ‘sinners’ whom he meets.”[mm]

Verse 13 “But the tax collector, standing far off…”
“Tax collector”:
“Publicani were tax-farmers who bid on contracts to collect taxes in the provinces. ‘These publicani paid the stipulated sum-total of the impost directly into the Roman treasury and recouped themselves in the provinces by means of their trained staffs of collectors.’ In essence, having paid the tax up front, they subsequently extorted what they could from the populace, keeping the difference as profit.”[nn]

“The public revenues of the Greeks and Romans were usually farmed out. Among the latter, the purchasers were chiefly of the equestrian order and were distinguished as being of a higher class because they rode horses, or they were at least persons of wealth and rank like Zacchaeus who is called the chief tax collector (architelṓnēs ) in Luke19:2). These farmers also had subcontractors or employed agents who collected the taxes and customs at the gates of cities, in seaports, on public ways and bridges. These, too, were called telṓnai (pl.), publicans, or eklégontes (n.f.), (from ek , out of, and légō, in its original sense meaning to collect), those who collected out of the people. Such publicans in countries subject to the Roman Empire were the objects of hatred and detestation so that none but persons of worthless character were likely to be found in this employment. They were called hárpages (n.f.), extortioners, from harpagḗ, extortion. Chrysostom calls them kapḗlous (n.f.), hucksters, from kapēleúō, to retail, adulterate, take advantage of, corrupt, and pornoboskoús (n.f.), shepherds of fornication. They were also called kólakes (n.f.), flatterers, from kolakeía, flattery.”[oo]

Craddock describes them this way: He was “working for a foreign  government collecting taxes from his own people, a participant in a cruel and corrupt system, politically a traitor, religiously unclean (cf. 5:29-32)[pp]

“Standing far off”
Note that the Pharisee stood upright by himself, while the Toll Collector stood far away from the crowd. Also, the accepted form of prayer was to look up to heaven when you spoke (cf. 1 Tim 2:8),[qq] which presumably the Pharisee did, but the Toll Collector could not bring himself to lift his head. Later Christian prayer practice adopted his praying style, and not that of the Pharisee, as the intent of prayer changed from pronouncements to God to remorse before God.

“Went down to his home justified.”
Down, literally “because the Temple lies on a hill surrounded by valleys except in the north.”[rr]

The “righteousness” which was gained by the Toll Collector in the end goes no further, in terms of redemption, etc., than Pss. 51, 24:3-5, or 2 Esdras 12:7. It shouldn’t be confused with the more advanced thought of Paul or that of later Reformed theology.

Jeremias notes that this passage is “the only one in the Gospels in which the verb (“to be made righteous”) is used in a sense similar to that in which Paul generally uses it. Nevertheless Pauline influence is not to be assumed here…Our passage shows, on the other hand, that the Pauline doctrine of justification has its roots in the teaching of Jesus.”[ss]

“God, be merciful to me a sinner”
The two psalms that are possibly behind the prayer of the Tax (toll) collector are 51 and 24:
Psalm 51:1-5
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
5 Indeed, I was born guilty,
        a sinner when my mother conceived me.

Psalm 24:3-5

3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
5 They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.


And finally…

Good quote from Joseph Fitzmyer about the concluding verse:
“If the thrust of it is to insinuate that the disciples should identify themselves with the toll-collector rather than with the Pharisee, it should be remembered that with all the willingness thus to identify oneself there undoubtedly remains in everyone more than a little of the Pharisee”[tt]

And this one from Fred Craddock:
The Pharisee is not a venomous villain and the publican is not a generous Joe the Bartender or Goldie the good-hearted hooker…If the Pharisee is pictured as a villain and the tax collector as a hero, then each gets what he deserves, there is no surprise of grace and the parable is robbed. In Jesus’ story, what both receive is ‘in spite of,’ not ‘because of.’ When the two men are viewed in terms of character and community expectations, without labels or prejudice, the parable is still a shock, still carrying the power both to offend and to bless. But perhaps most important, the interpreter of this parable does not want to depict the characters in such a way that the congregation leaves the sanctuary saying ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like the Pharisee.’ It is possible that the reversal could be reversed.”[uu]

Sermon Starter thoughts
When people have asked me about prayer, I’ve always told them to just pray anything. God wants to hear from you, so pray anything. All prayers are created equal. God wants the relationship of you talking with God. The quality and words are not as important.

However, there ARE some exceptions and this parable illustrates one that might come close.

This is the parable of –what used to be called—“The Pharisee and the Publican.” The “Publican” was the term used in the King James Bible, and that’s the one I was raised on. More modern translations use tax collector, but even that isn’t quite right. Probably ought to be called a toll collector and I’ll get to that in a second.

This story is one of those that doesn’t have any particular reference to the story of the life of Jesus. It could have been placed about anywhere. If you want to look at it in terms of the whole gospel of Luke, you see that for the most part Luke’s story of the life of Jesus is laid out pretty much like that of Mark and Matthew. They follow the same order and include many, if not all, of the same things. But then at about two thirds of the way through the life of Jesus, Luke adds a whole bunch of new things that you can’t find anywhere else. Completely unique to Luke’s gospel. Must have come from a special source that he had of stories about Jesus. This parable today is the last one in that batch of unique stories. That’s not terribly important in terms of its meaning, but it’s interesting to get a sense of how Luke-the-author organized his material.

Something that is more important, is that it fits in right after a story of a woman desperately pleading with a judge to do justice on a case against her. She begs and begs until the judge finally gives in and grants her request. Jesus says that that was a parable to illustrate how you should never give up on prayer. But keep on praying even when it seems to produce nothing. That story about prayer comes just before this story about prayer, and they are probably intended (by Luke, not Jesus) to be together. The woman’s story was about persistent prayer and the Pharisee is about presumptuous prayer, and the Toll collector is about confessional prayer.


[a] “The phrase ‘this parable’ appears at the end of the verse and is omitted in ms. D; without it the verse would begin, ‘Then he said to some…’” (Joseph Fitzmyer, Anchor Bible 28a, The Gospel According to Luke [Garden City” Doubleday, 1983], p. 1185)
[b] “To some who” This expression, pros timas, could as easily be translated “about some” as “to some.” Is Jesus talking about people who pray this way, or to those people? “It may indicate the persons to whom the parable is addressed or possibly the people ‘against’ whom it is directed (cf. 20:19). That the Pharisees are meant is clear from v . 10, and did not need to be spelled out here.” (The Gospel of Luke: The New International Greek Testament Commentary, I. Howard Marshall (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s: 1977), p. 678.
[c] “Trusted” (πεποιθοτας: πείθω peíthō) fut. peísō, aor. pass. epeísthēn, perf. pass. pépeismai, 2d perf. pépoitha. In the active voice, it generally means to persuade, particularly to move or affect by kind words or motives. In the passive voice, it means to assent to. In the 2nd perf. (pépoitha), it can mean trust, as it is usually translated here. For other similar uses, cf. Mar 10:24; Luke 11:22; 2Co 1:9; Heb 2:13. Ezekiel also criticized his people for “trusting” in their own “righteousness (33:13).
[d] “Who trusted in themselves” (πεποιθότας ἐφ᾿ ἑαυτοῖς) Jeremias believes that this expression is meant to say that they trusted in themselves instead of God. (Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, Rev. Ed. 1972), p. 139. If that is the case, says I. H. Marshall, then the following hóti must be translated “because” rather than “that.” “That” gives the content of their self-confidence. “Because” gives the reason for their self-confidence. (Marshall, NIGTC, p. 678-679)
[e] “That” (ὅτι hóti) Conj. That (demonstrative), because (causal).
[f] “Righteous” (δίκαιος dikaios) δικαιοι , n. masc. from díkē (G1349), right, just. Upright, virtuous, keeping the commandments. When used, as here, in the masc., it refers to the one who acts conformably to justice and right without any deficiency or failure, as the Pharisee here seems to see himself. It can occasionally be applied to God (John17:25; Rom 3:26), Christ (Matt 27:19, 24; Luke 23:47), and the self-righteous, as here. When so, it is usually rejected as being mere appearance (Matt. 23:28; Luke 20:20). Cf. 15:7, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
[g] “Regarded others with contempt” (exouthenountas tous loipous). ἐξουθενέω, past tense, active voice. From ek and outhenéō (n.f.). To despise, treat as nothing, scorn. The thought is found mainly in Luke and Paul. Jeremias, Op.Cit. p. 141, says it means more than just to see others with contempt, but “is much more severe.” For similar uses, cf. especially Luke 23:11, also Rom 14:3, Rom 14:10; 1Co 1:28; 1Co 6:4; 1Co 16:11; 2Co 10:10 .
[h] “Went up” (ἀνέβησαν, anabaínō); from aná, up, and baínō, to go. To go or come up, to ascend, cause to ascend from a lower to a higher place. Verb Indicative Aorist Active Third Person Plural. “Since Jerusalem stood on a hill, Píáâáßíù became the appropriate verb to use of visits to the temple. Daily prayer took place in the morning and afternoon, but at any time individuals might engage in their own private prayers.” (Marshall, NIGTC, p. 679).
[i] “To pray” (προσεύχομαι proseúchomai) From the prep. prós, to, and eúchomai, to wish, pray, offer prayer. In the NT this compound verb almost totally supplants the simple verb eúchomai in designating “to pray.” (Zodhiates, ed., The Complete Word Study Dictionary).
[j] “Tax collector” (τελώνης  telṓnēs) gen. telṓnou, masc. noun from télos, tax, and ōnéomai, to buy. “A reaper of the taxes or customs, tax-collector, one who pays to the government a certain sum for the privilege of collecting the taxes and customs of a district.” (The Complete WordStudy Dictionary, Zodhiates, ed, Chatnooga, TN: AMG International, Inc., 1992).
[k] “Standing by himself” (Standing: σταθεὶς  statheis). Lit. “Having been placed,” “having taken his stand.” “Standing was the common Jewish posture in prayer (Matt 6:5; Mark 11:25)” but the Pharisee “struck an attitude ostentatiously where he could be seen.” (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament [Kreigel, 1930]. “In Luke always used of a person who is about to make an important statement (cf. v. 40; 19:8; Acts 2:14; 5:20; 17:22; 27:21)…Here it may suggest that the Pharisee took a position where he could be seen by the public.” (Reiling and Swellengrebel, Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Luke [London: United Bible Society, 1971]). Jeremias says that this phrase can be translated, “took a prominent position and uttered this prayer.” (The Parables of Jesus [Scribner's, 1963]). “We are not told where the Pharisee stood, but the contrast with v. 13 would imply that he moved far to the front of the Court of Israel within the Temple precincts.” (Fitzmyer, p. 1186.)
[l] “Praying” The wording in Greek is such that the expression could be translated either as “standing by himself, was praying” or most interestingly, “standing, praying to himself.” “The majority of the evidence favors the reading, ταῦτα πρὸς ἑαυτόν, but internally the more difficult sequence seems to be πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ταῦτα. The latter was ameliorated to read καθ᾽ ἑαυτὸν ταῦτα, ‘[standing] by himself …’ Because of the difficulty of construing πρὸς ἑαυτόν (especially when the words stood next to σταθείς),  several witnesses omit the phrase entirely.” (Bruce Metzger, A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament [4th rev. ed.] [London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994], p. 143.
It is interesting to note that in another context pros heauton would mean “With himself.” Robertson describes it as a “soliloquy with his own soul, a complacent recital of his own virtues for his own self-satisfaction, not fellowship with God, though he addresses God.” (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament).
[m] “Fast…give” (νηστευω δις του σαββατου αποδεκατω) Present tense suggests habitual behavior, unlike most pastors.
[n] “Standing far off” (makrothen hestōs  μακροθεν εστως). Contrast with the Pharisee who was “standing by himself” (σταθεις προς εαυτον  statheis pros eauton). The Toll Collector is standing far off from the Pharisee, not from the crowd in the Temple (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament).
[o] “Breast” (στῆθος  stē̄́thos) gen. stḗthous, neut. noun from hístēmi, to stand, pl. tá stêthē. The breast. Jeremias says that it should more accurately be “beating his heart because the heart was more properly seen as the “seat of sin.” (Parables of Jesus, p. 141). It should also be noted that there is a word that more properly means “breast,” which is not stêthos, but mastós.
[p] “Merciful” (ἱλάσκομαι, hiláskomai); from hílaos. To bring about forgiveness, be gracious, kind, gentle. The kjv translates this a propitiousness (which means to cover up, rather than to erase). This and other translations of this verb were instrumental in creating the notion among conservatives that redemption covers up our sins rather than eliminating or forgiving sins.
[q] “A sinner” (ἁμαρτωλός, hamartōlos) “The use of the demonstrative article before ‘sinner’ is significant, indicating that the tax-collector sees himself as ‘the’ sinner,’ the most despicable person present, the least worthy to pray. (Susan Eastman, Lectionary Homiletics, Vol. XVIII, No. 6, p. 27.)
[r] “This man went down to his home” (καταβαίνω, katabaino) contrasts with anabaino (“went up”) in v. 10.
[s] “Justified” (dikaióō) Contracted dikaiṓ, fut. dikaiṓsō, from díkaios (G1342), just, righteous. Since díkaióō means generally to received the favor of God, Jeremias suggests that this could be translated, “(he went home) as one to whom God had extended his favors.” (p. 414).
[t] “Exalt” (ὑψόω, hupsoō). Verb Participle Present Active Nominative Masculine Singular. From húpsos, height. to heighten, raise high, elevate, lift up. Generally, and especially in this case, to raise someone up in dignity, honor, or income.
[u] “Humbled” (ταπεινόω tapeinoō) Verb, future, passive voice, first person plural. From tapeinós. To humble, to make low, bring low, to bring into a humble condition, reduce to meaner circumstances.
[v] Alan Culpepper, New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), p. 340.
[w] Raymond Bailey, “Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C,” ed. Roger E. Van Harn, The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, Volume Three (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), p. 432.
[x] Bailey, Ibid.
[y] And perhaps in a much more altered form in Mt 18:4, “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
[z] See Joseph Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, X-XXIV, Vol. 28A, Anchor Bible series (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1964), p. 1183.  
[aa] Fitzmyer, Luke, 28a, p. 1184.
[bb] Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, p. 141.
[cc] Fitzmyer, p. 1185.
[dd] Fred Craddock Luke (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), p. 210.
[ee] For a religious review, see Clive Marsh, Theology Goes to the Movies: An Introduction to Critical Christian Thinking (New York: Routledge, 2007), pp. 95-96.
[ff] The Gospel of Luke: The New International Greek Testament Commentary, I. Howard Marshall (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s: 1977), p. 678.
[gg] Culpepper, New Interpreter’s Bible, 341.
[hh] Susan Eastman, Lectionary Homiletics, Vol. XVIII, No. 6, p. 27
[ii] Jeremias, p. 142
[jj] Jeremias, p. 140
[kk] Eastman, p. 342.
[ll] Eastman, p. 342.
[mm] Susan Eastman, Lectionary Homiletics, p. 27.
[nn]  M. Cary and H. H. Scullard, A History of Rome Third Edition, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1975, 1979), cited in Chris Haslam ,
[oo] The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Zodhiates, ed, Chatnooga, TN: AMG International, Inc., 1992
[pp] Craddock, Luke, p. 211.
[qq] “I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument”
[rr] Jeremias, p. 141.
[ss] Ibid.
[tt] Fitzmyer, p. 1185.
[uu] Craddock, Luke, p. 211