FreerangeFriday: Art in Worship

by Lilly Lewin
Pharisee and the Tax Collector

by Lilly Lewin

In this Sunday’s Lectionary Gospel reading, Jesus tells the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 10:9-14.

It’s a story you’ve probably heard before, so to help us process the passage, I am choosing four paintings of the scene.

Take a look at each painting and allow the Holy Spirit to inspire you.
Pharisee and Tax Collector James Tissot

Pharisee and Tax Collector James Tissot

Pharisee and the tax collector

Pharisee and the tax collector by Jesus Mafa

Pharisee and the Tax Collector Barent Fabititus

Pharisee and the Tax Collector Barent Fabititus

Pharisee and the Tax Collector

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector  by Bryn Gillette

You can see a slide show with close ups and a few others HERE.

This process is called VISIO DIVINA, you can read more about this process HERE.

As you look at the Paintings….
Put yourself, imagine yourself, in each painting.
What do you notice?
What speaks to you? What bothers you?
Does anything scream loudly? Does anything resonate?
Talk to Jesus about what you notice.

I was struck by the Pharisee as skeleton. It is a powerful painting by an artist and art teacher who lives in Charlotte, NC, Bryn Gillet. The Pharisee enters the temple dead, just dry bones, not knowing that he’s dead and in need of resurrection. He is dressed in all his finery yet without any self awareness, just bones. The tax collector on the other hand, is on his knees, humble and self aware and he wears a halo. How often am I just a skeleton of who I want to be? Do I realize when I am just giving God a list of my accomplishments rather than listening ? How often do I judge my neighbor or criticize those who think and act differently than I do rather than praying for them and myself to see God in them?

NOW READ and Listen to the passage from LUKE 18: 9-14.

LUKE 18:9-14 NLT
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer[a]: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”


He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
“Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”
Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

What questions come up for you from this passage?

What part of this story do you relate to in your life right now?

Are you personally feeling more like the tax collector or the Pharisee today?

Who are the tax collectors in our society today? Who are the Pharisees?

What do you need to ask forgiveness for today? Where have you played Pharisee lately? Ask Jesus for forgiveness.

The MESSAGE version ends with “if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” What things do you really like about yourself and make you content? What things make you…you?  How does contentment help you stay humble and help you become more than yourself?


Give us Grace Today,

To Love as You Love.
 Help us to Love with 

Give us Hope today for
 ourselves and others.

Heal our hurts and our hearts today

So we can serve and help those around us.

Help us to know that you are enough.

And help us live today and everyday in Thankfulness.

For all you’ve done, and for all you bless us with!

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

©lillylewin and

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