He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
— Luke 18:9-14
In religious terms, what did the Pharisee have that the tax collector didn’t? Lots.
What did the tax collector have that the Pharisee didn’t? Nothing except money, which he at this point considers nothing.
The Pharisee brought all his religious currency to the market and found that his money was no good there. Instead the tax collector walked away justified because he “owned” his spiritual poverty (Matthew 5:3), copped to the bottomlessness of his need. He brought nothing to the table and therefore was “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
— Isaiah 55:1
“Nothing in my hand I bring / Simply to the cross I cling.”