The Pharisee and the Publican

Then Jesus told another tale
About a Pharisee, a male
Who liked to pray quite publicly
(A proud and boastful man was he)
“Now listen god!” he volleyed forth
To west and east and south and north,
“I pay my tithes of mint and rue
And honour you in all I do.
I fast two days in every week
Unlike that tax collecting sneak
I spy a-snoozing by the door
Oh look, he’s slithered to the floor!
A nasty, snakelike creature he
And not a righteous soul like me.”

The tax collector wept and said
“I do not dare to lift my head!”
At this he smote upon his breast,
He looked forlorn, he felt depressed.
“I cheat and steal throughout the day,
I do not tithe, I rarely pray,
I never fail to eat my dinner,
Be merciful to me a sinner!”

The Pharisee stood well apart,
Self-satisfaction filled his heart.
Though certain all his deeds were right
He tossed and turned throughout that night.

And yet this tax-collecting louse
Returned forgiven to his house,
And drying his repentant tears,
Slept, like he hadn’t slept in years.

For he who makes himself look grand
Receives no bounty from God’s hand,
But he who knows he is a sinner
May in the long run be the winner.

The gang all thought this very good
“We get it, message understood!”
They said, “We thank our god that we
Are so not like that Pharisee.”
One said, “I must point out that I
Am very like the other guy.
To judge by his humility,
The character was based on me.”

But Jesus never said a word
Although I’m pretty sure he heard.
He trusted that the tales he told
Would one day turn their hearts to gold.
He knew these men and what was in them.
He knew his yarns and how to spin them.

The people came from near and far
To hear this storytelling star.
They came to him in their distress,
And brought their kids for him to bless.
But Jesus’ mates all shouted, ”Woah!
You can’t bring children here you know.
The boss is far too busy healing
Sick and lame folks, all these squealing
Brats would drive a saint insane.
You’ll have to take them home again.
We’re very sorry, that’s the rule.
Besides, they ought to be in school!”

But Jesus sighed and shook his head.
“Bring all the kids to me,” he said
He held them in his arms and smiled
And kissed and blessed each little child.
His friends protested, “They’re so small
They cannot grasp your words at all.”
But Jesus answered, “Can’t you see?
They do not want a thing from me.
You follow me for love and yet
It’s partly for what you can get –
To be in heaven when you die
And sit at my right hand on high.
I offer no such guarantees,
My kingdom’s made for such as these.
The ones who come for love alone
Are those I truly call my own.”

Luke 18:9-17