The Pharisee and the tax collector (Lk 18:10-18:10)

“Two men

Went up

Into the Temple

To pray.

One was

A Pharisee.

The other was

A tax collector.”

 

Ἄνθρωποι δύο ἀνέβησαν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν προσεύξασθαι, ὁ εἷς Φαρισαῖος καὶ ὁ ἕτερος τελώνης.

 

Luke has Jesus tell a parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector that is only found in this gospel.  Luke indicated that Jesus said that two men (Ἄνθρωποι δύο) went up into the Temple (ἀνέβησαν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν) to pray (προσεύξασθαι).  One was a Pharisee (ὁ εἷς Φαρισαῖος).  The other was a tax collector (καὶ ὁ ἕτερος τελώνης).  Both of these men were well intentioned, since they went to the Temple to pray to God, a good thing.  Socially, they were of two different strata.  The Pharisee was a pillar of Jewish society as an interpreter of the Mosaic Law.  The tax collector, on the other hand, was considered a traitor to the Jewish community, since he worked for the Roman Empire, the occupation force.  These tax collectors were often compared to public sinners.  The contrast was real and set out at the beginning of this story.  Is there a social strata in your religious culture?

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No kisses (Lk 7:45-7:45)

“You gave me

No kiss.

However,

From the time

I came in,

She has not stopped

Kissing my feet.”

 

φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας· αὕτη δὲ ἀφ’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον οὐ διέλειπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας.

 

Luke uniquely had Jesus continue to reprimand Simon, the Pharisee, for his lack of hospitality compared to this sinning woman.  Jesus said that Simon gave him no greeting kiss (φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας) when he came into his house.  This woman, on the other hand, since he came in (αὕτη δὲ ἀφ’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον), had not stopped kissing his feet (οὐ διέλειπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας).  What a contrast?  Do you greet people with a kiss?

The fifth curse against the Chaldean idols (Hab 2:18-2:20)

“What use is an idol?

Once its maker

Has shaped it,

It is a cast image,

A teacher of lies.

Its maker trusts

In his own creation,

Even though the product

Is only an idol

That cannot speak.

Woe to you!

You say to the wood.

‘Wake up!’

You say to silent stone.

‘Rouse yourself!’

Can it teach?

See!

It is gold plated.

It is silver plated.

There is no breath

In it at all.

But Yahweh is

In his holy temple.

Let all the earth

Keep silence

Before him.”

This final and fifth curse of Habakkuk was against the Chaldean idols, a favorite theme of the prophets.  What good were these idols?  They were handmade human creations, full of lies.  They could not speak.  How foolish they were, when they asked wood and stone to wake up and rouse themselves.  These idols cannot teach anything, since they are gold and silver plated, without any breath in them.  Contrast that with Yahweh in his holy temple, where all the earth keeps silent before him.

The wealthy (Sir 31:1-31:4)

“Wakefulness over wealth

Wastes away one’s flesh.

Anxiety about wealth

Drives away sleep.

Wakeful anxiety prevents slumber.

A severe illness carries off sleep.

The rich person toils

To amass a fortune.

When he rests,

He fills himself with his dainties.

The poor person toils

To make a meager living.

If ever he rests,

He becomes needy.”

Sirach believes that the wealthy worry too much about their wealth. They are awake all the time, because their anxiety forces them to not get enough sleep. Their worries waste away their bodies, so that they probably will get a severe illness. Then Sirach has a contrast between the rich person who stops working, only to enjoy his delicacies, and the poor person who can hardly stop working because he would fall into poverty. The rich work to amass a fortune, while the poor work to earn a meager living.

The nothingness of humans (Sir 18:8-18:14)

“What are human beings?

What use are they?

What is good about them?

What is evil about them?

The number of days in their life is great,

If they reach one hundred years.

The death of each one

Is beyond the calculation of all.

Like a drop of water from the sea,

Like a grain of sand,

So are these few years

Among the days of eternity.

Therefore the Lord is patient with them.

He pours out his mercy upon them.

He sees them.

He recognizes

That their end is miserable.

Therefore he grants them forgiveness all the more.

The compassion of human beings

Is for their neighbors.

But the compassion of the Lord

Is for every living thing.

He rebukes them.

He trains them.

He teaches them.

He turns them back,

As a shepherd his flock.

He has compassion on those

Who accept his discipline.

He has compassion on those

Who are eager for his precepts.”

Sirach points out that human beings, in contrast to the greatness of God, are useless, like a later 20th century existential 1943 Jean Paul Sartre work, Being and Nothingness. They have a little good and little evil in them, but they have a short unpredictable life, at best 100 years long. Their lives are like a drop of water in the sea or a grain of sand on the shore compared to divine eternity. That is why the Lord is patient and merciful with them. He knows that they will come to a miserable end, so that he grants them forgiveness. While the compassion of humans is for their neighbors, the compassion of the Lord is for all living things. Like a theme later attributed to Jesus, Sirach sees the Lord as a shepherd who rebukes, trains, teaches, and takes his sheep back and forth. The Lord has compassion for those who accept his discipline and precepts.

Death (Wis 16:13-16:14)

“You have power over life and death.

You lead mortals down to the gates of Hades.

You lead them back again.

A person in his wickedness kills another.

But he cannot bring back the departed spirit.

He cannot set free the imprisoned soul.”

This author clearly assigns to God the power of life and death (ζωῆς καὶ θανάτου). There is a contrast with the great power of God with the limitations of humans. In fact, this author says that God leads them down to Hades (ᾅδου) and back. However, humans cannot bring back an imprisoned soul (ψυχὴν) or a departed spirit (πνεῦμα).

The righteous and the wicked (Prov 10:6-10:11)

“Blessings are on the head of the righteous.

But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

The memory of the righteous is a blessing.

But the name of the wicked will not be a blessing.

The wise of heart will heed commandments.

But a babbling fool will come to ruin.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely.

But whoever follows perverse ways will be found out.

Whoever winks the eye causes trouble.

But the one who rebukes boldly makes peace.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.

But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.”

This constant contrast of the righteous and the wicked continues. The righteous ones will be blessed, because the wicked ones conceal violence. The righteous memory is a blessing, but the name of the wicked ones will not get a blessing. The wise ones follow the commandments, but the babbling fools come to ruin. If you walk with integrity, you will be secure. However, if you follow perverse ways, you will be found out. If you wink your eye and let evil happen, you cause more problems. If you rebuke evil things, then you will bring about peace. The righteous mouth is a fountain of life, while the mouth of the wicked conceals its violent ways.