The two Jewish "sects" we see during the time of Jesus were "Pharisees" and "Sadducees". These two were always in opposition with Jesus and his teachings.
We see another group of people who are not necessarily Jews called "Tax Collectors". A tax collector was considered by the Jews to be a traitor and very probably a thief. Because the land of Israel was occupied by Rome and the taxes collected went to Rome.
Luke 18:9-14 talks about a pharisee and tax collector going to the temple to pray.
Pharisee prayed: "I" am not like other person. "I" am not a swindler. "I" am not unjust. "I" am not an adulterer. "I" am not a tax collector. "I" fast two times a week. "I" am a faithful tither.
In other words, I have my "own" righteousness.
Tax collector prayed: God, have mercy on this "sinner". (He stood some distance away and was unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven)
In other words, I do not have my "own" righteousness, so I need yours!
If you look Pharisee's prayer is pretty long, but tax collector's is short.
Verse 14 says who received the justification.
I believe there are modern day "pharisees". Another name we may use to call them : Legalists.
Legalists are the true enemies of God. Many people think sinners are God's enemies. But this passage proves it wrong.
Today's "churches" trying to produce "pharisees". They develop principles, laws, rules, do's, don'ts, steps, commitments, programs, codes, patterns etc.
But bible calls them "white washed tombs" and "brood of vipers"!
Pharisees are satan's master pieces. There heart is blocked to God's Grace. They do not understand it. They block others from receiving it. They think they are righteous. They think God is well pleased with them. They think they are going to Heaven!
Bible says, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble - James 4:6
Jesus while on the earth embraced tax collectors and "sinners" (Matthew 9:10-13) but had many conflicts with Pharisees.
"For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:13)
After all Aposlte Mathew was a tax collector (Matthew 9:9)
[Matthew was a Jew who worked for the Roman government and therefore, he too was hated.]
Hey! From Man's standard, pharisees (or modern day legalists) are "good' and acceptable. They obeyed the law. They fasted. They tithed. They didn't kill anyone. They didn't commit adultery. They were not public nuisance. They build orphanages. They help the poor. They are there in "church" every time the door is open. They are board members. They teach Sunday school. They even preach "Gospel"!!!
But God has a HIGHER standard! That is the standard of Jesus! and His standard can be achieved by Him alone!
Apostle Paul condemns legalism more than any other apostles, in the book of Galatians. He calls them "Foolish Galatians"! Now substitute "Galatia" with our own town. We can see some hard core pharisees every where.
The saddest thing about them is that their Jesus is NOT the Jesus of the Bible and they don't know it!
What we need today is not "pharisees", but "tax collectors" who can say "THANK YOU" for God's Grace.