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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

Living Outside In or Inside Out

Luke 18:9-14

          Several people have said: “There are only two kinds of people in this world...”

... “those who wake up in the morning and say, ‘Good morning, Lord,’ and those who wake up in the morning and say, ‘Good Lord, it’s morning.’”

,,, “those who make excuses and those who get results.” (Alan Cohen)

... “givers and takers.  The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.” (Marlo Thomas)

... “the good and the bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours much more.” (Woody Allen)

(Rev. Emily Heitzman)

... “those who leave their mark on the world and those who leave a stain. (Vaishali Yegi)

... “the ones that entertain, and the ones that observe.”  (Britney Spears)

... “People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.” (Mark Twain)

          My personal favorite is “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't.” (Robert Benchley)

          This parable in Luke seems to be another version of the view that there are two kinds of people in the world: people similar to the Pharisee and people similar to the tax collector.  This message is adapted from a sermon by Tim Keller; the concepts of Outside In and Inside Out are his.

          CONTEXT (9) = The intended audience for this parable was people WHO HAD GREAT CONFIDENCE IN THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND SCORNED EVERYONE ELSE.  Their attitude was symbolized by the Pharisee.   The attitude God wanted them to have was symbolized by the tax collector.

          CONFIDENCE is something God wants us to feel, but it must be confidence in Him, not in one’s self.  Humility requires a correct view of one’s self, especially in relationship with God.

          THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS expresses our typical desire to be in control.  From Adam and Eve onward, humans have preferred to “handle” things on our own, to provide for or earn our own salvation.  It is egotism and pride of the worst kind to fall into a “works” mentality.

          SCORNED EVERYONE ELSE = Pride is typically manifest in a feeling of superiority over others.  Putting others down is a way people try to lift themselves up, but it’s just an illusion that helps no one.

          Remember, Jesus is telling a story in order to make a point.  The two characters in the story are fictional and to some extent, stereotypical.  The story always serves the main point.  We will observe the particulars of the story only to support our observation of Jesus’ one main point.  They are a contrasting study of arrogance and humility.

God wants us to live in genuine humility, being directed by His Spirit within us.

1. The Pharisee lived life OUTSIDE IN. (10-12)

          We need to see Pharisees in the same light as Jesus’ listeners.  We tend to equate Pharisees with hypocrisy, but people in Jesus’ time didn’t necessarily see them that way.  Pharisees were very ambitious about their religious observance.  It would be easy to respect their ambition.  Fewer people sought to follow their example, but there were probably very few Jews who openly opposed or criticized the Pharisees.  The local synagogues were often run by priests who belonged to the party of the Pharisees.  In the New Testament, the hypocritical Pharisees are the ones we see most often.

          The fact that the Pharisee stood apart from the others in the temple implies his prayer was the public performance kind of prayer that Jesus condemned in Matthew 6:5-6.  To Jesus’ listeners, it would not have been unusual to have heard a Pharisee pray in exactly this way.

          The Pharisee evaluated his life from a legalistic perspective, an act characteristic of life lived Outside In.  He said, “I AM NOT LIKE OTHER PEOPLE.” According to the Law, part of maintaining one’s holiness and ritual cleanliness required avoiding the homes of Gentiles, corpses, etc.  Separation was somewhat a necessity, but this guy took it too far when his self-righteousness and pride made him glad to condemn and avoid people he didn’t like.  For example...

- “CHEATERS” = arpages, “swindler, rogue.”

- “SINNERS” = adikoi, doing wrong.

- “ADULTERERS” = moichoi.

In case no one made the association between those three kinds of notorious sinners and the tax collector, the Pharisee made it plain: “NOT LIKE THAT TAX COLLECTOR.”

          He provided a couple examples of his religious ambition. “I FAST TWICE A WEEK” = The Law only required one fast each year, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29).  This man was proud of the fact that he went way above and beyond the minimum required fast.  It was habitual, among the Pharisees, to fast once a week, on Mondays or Thursdays.  Most Pharisees fasted once a week, so this guy was twice as pious as his peers.

          “I GIVE A TENTH OF MY INCOME” = The guy did not give a tithe of his net income, but his gross.  He was generous and gave a tenth of everything that crossed his threshold.  This was also above the minimum.

          Characteristics of a life lived OUTSIDE IN are exemplified in the Pharisee.  Generally speaking, it involves taking something good and ruining it by using it to elevate one’s ego.  God gave the Law to do good.  Prideful people distort the Law by turning it into legalism.  

          God told His people to avoid idolatry.  Prideful people distorted that command by turning it into separationism, an excuse for thinking themselves superior to other people, especially those we don’t like.

          God wants us to be devoted to the truth.  Prideful people distort that devotion by equating their opinions with the truth, exercising a “my way or the highway” attitude.

          People who are more humble but nonetheless live OUTSIDE IN take an external thing and make it the basis for their personhood.  The external thing may be good, like the Law.  It may be neutral like ethnicity.  It may be evil, like crime.

          This kind of life is not God’s will for us because if we think we have saved ourselves, we remain unsaved.  If we think we have made ourselves something, we have blasphemed our true Creator and we remain unsaved.  The OUTSIDE IN life is an illusion.

2. The tax collector lived life INSIDE OUT. (10, 13)

          We need to see tax collectors in the same light as Jesus’ listeners. Tax collectors were local people who contracted with the Roman Empire.  Some Jews took on these positions.

          The people who did this work supported themselves by charging the taxpayer more than the Empire demanded and keeping the difference.

Tax people in our time can be unpopular enough, imagine how much more the ones working for your conqueror would be hated.

          In Jesus’ time, tax collectors were the most universally hated villains.  Jesus used the word DESPISED in v. 10.  It is probable that as He told this parable, His first mention of a tax collector was greeted with hisses, boos, and insults.

          The tax collector symbolizes some of the characteristics of a life lived INSIDE OUT.  The tax collector evaluated his life from an introspective position: he lived INSIDE OUT.

          Whatever his vices, pride was not among them.  When he looked inside his heart, he saw things that humbled him.  Like the Pharisee, the tax collector stood at a distance.  Unlike the tax collector, this was not to distinguish himself from the crowd, but because he felt unworthy to approach the temple, the holy place of God’s dwelling.  HE DARED NOT LIFT HIS EYES TO HEAVEN AS HE PRAYED.  The typical posture for prayer among the Jews was standing with an upraised face.  HE BEAT HIS CHEST IN SORROW = In grief over sin, he struck his chest, the place where his unfaithful heart lay.

          He said only, “GOD BE MERCIFUL TO ME, FOR I AM A SINNER.”  This is repentance at its most basic form: acknowledgement of one’s utter helplessness and entire dependance on God for mercy.

3. God justified the tax collector. (14)

          Notice Jesus referred to the tax collector as a SINNER, just as the man referred to himself.  However, He surprised everyone when he said God JUSTIFIED the tax collector.

          What does JUSTIFIED mean?  It is a legal term which is the opposite of condemnation.  To condemn someone is to declare them guilty.  To justify them is to declare them more than “not guilty,” but righteous. With regards to God, justifying someone is an act of grace that not only pardons or acquits someone, but actually declares him righteous. 

          This verdict would have utterly surprised Jesus’ listeners.  Their prejudice for the Pharisee and their greater prejudice against the tax collector would surely have them preferring the Pharisee’s justification.

          Why would God choose to justify the tax collector?  The Pharisee did not repent because he didn’t think he needed to.  He wanted to be in control and repentance requires us to turn all control over to God.

          The tax collector repented because he saw himself truthfully and knew nothing but repentance would save him.  He offered no self-justification, no defense, no excuses.  He threw himself on God’s mercy and found God had mercy aplenty.

          God rejected the Pharisee.  Why?  The answer and the one main point of this parable is clearly stated in v. 14: FOR THOSE WHO EXALT THEMSELVES WILL BE HUMBLED, AND THOSE WHO HUMBLE THEMSELVES WILL BE EXALTED.  This is the same statement Jesus made at the conclusion of the parable of the wedding guest, which was also a lesson on pride (Luke 14:7-11).  This is a statement of God’s justice, which is often the opposite of what the world expects or practices.

God wants us to live in genuine humility, being directed by His Spirit within us.

          True humility begins with knowing yourself and living fully within the person you are at the moment.  That’s living Inside Out.  The Holy Spirit within every believer should be in charge of what we say and do, so that what comes out will be Jesus.

          Egotism and self-centeredness are different versions of an Outside In way of life.  So are perfectionism, people-pleasing, and hypocrisy.  Beware: Outside In living is not God’s will for your life.  It is toxic. 

          How do I get to an Inside Out life?

#1 - Get to know Jesus.  Love Jesus.  (Worship, prayer, and Scripture are necessities.)

#2 - Get to know yourself.  (Reflection on your experiences, conversation, and legitimate assessments are crucial.)

#3 - Say “yes” and “no” when they are appropriate for you.  (Duty is a fine motive but a poor lifestyle.  Speak honestly.  Be ethical and considerate at the same time.)

#4 - Stop overdoing.  (Activity can be mere distraction.  If you aren’t being quiet before God at least an hour a day, you’re busy in the wrong way.  Listen more, talk less.  Wag your tail more, bark less.  Step out your door or look out your window to be awed by God’s creation.)

#5 - Seek the best for others.  (Stop trying to remake everyone in your image.  Respect them even if you don’t agree with their ways.  Keep your advice private until asked.  Forget about trying to impress them, concentrate on showing them Jesus.)

#6 - Let happiness happen but aim for joy.  (The word “happiness” is found 15 times in our NLT Bibles.  The word “joy” is found 333 times.  There’s a clue as to which God prefers.)


          Britney Spears, from, retrieved on 7 June 24.

          Mark Twain, from, retrieved on 7 June 24.

          Allison A. Trites, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 12, The Gospel of Luke, 2006, p. 242-244.

          Timothy Keller, Gospel in Life, 2010, pp. 32-33.

          Timothy Keller, “Inside Out Living,” a podcast found at

          Bauer, Arndt, & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 1979.

          Message #451

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