Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Some Thoughts on the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector

Luk 18:9-14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: (10) “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. (11) 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. (12) I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ (13) 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!’ (14) 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.”

“Who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” There it is. I wonder what kind of husband this Pharisee was? Actually, we really don’t need to wonder, do we? He treated his wife with contempt all the while playing the hypocrite narcissist that he was.

See how the Pharisee in the temple stands

And justifies himself with lifted hands

While the poor publican with downcast eyes

Conscious of guilt to God for mercy cries.

(John Bunyan)

Jesus’ parable indicates to us that this kind is not rare in religious circles. He told this parable just because there were many of these hypocrites mixing it up in the visible church. The Lord points us to a man who was a Pharisee, who was in the temple, who prayed, fasted, and tithed. In other words, an eminent church member/leader who, no doubt, enjoyed a reputation for being the finest, most holy, most faithful saint a church could ask for. But in reality…

He held others with contempt. He stood far off from others while lifting up his hands to put on a display of his “godliness.” He just knew that he was God’s favorite – so pious and holy was he. His religion was designed to exalt and glorify himself. He had no mercy. No love. No empathy toward others. When a truly repentant sinner comes to the church seeking the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness, these kind of men look upon them with contempt and avoid them hoping they will just go away lest they contaminate. And yet, his true, wicked, self-consumed nature goes unnoticed by most. His facade was accepted. I once had a church member tell me, with a burdened look of anxiety and confusion on her face, that one such counterfeit in our church “was the godliest man she ever knew.”

Thus diverse were they in their appearance; the Pharisee, very good; the Publican, very bad. But as to the Law of God, which looked upon them with reference to the state of their spirits, and the nature of their actions, by that they were both found sinners; the Publican an open outside one, and the Pharisee a filthy inside one.

John Bunyan

Professing “christians” just like this Pharisee are not a rare item. Many are in positions of leadership in churches. And on that Day when Christ returns, the wrath they have been building up on their heads is going to pour down from heaven upon them.


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  1. Molly

    What I have been seeing in the church is the flipping of this parable. The pious religious person has become so proud and haughty with the “well, we are all sinners” phrase that they have made the issue of sin to be a matter of pride. The “look at me! I’m such a sinner too!” to be able to justify the lack of action in calling out the evil amongst them.

    • Notlongnow

      I have also seen that too, and then they attack you for upholding holiness and calling out unrepentant sin. They accuse you of being the Pharisee for calling out any abusers or evil doers. They think they are so righteous in now they ‘love everyone’ and repeat their favourite verses they use to justify gross ongoing sin like “Gods mercies are new every morning”. When I realised these types of people are also Pharisees (because they are essentially saying they are better Christians than you because they oh so love the unrepentant abusers and evil doers), it made a lot more sense.


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