Encountering Jesus: The Religious Leader and Tax Collector

Bible Passages

Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)
Luke 18:15-17 (NIV)
Matthew 19:13-15 (NIV)
Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)


  • To despise – look down on someone or something as worthless or no good
  • Temple – place of worship; for the Jews, the most important place in Israel
  • Tax collector – person who takes money from people for the government
  • Apart – a little distance from; away from
  • Greedy – to always want more than what you already have
  • Adulterer – a person who sleeps with someone not their husband or wife
  • Fast – to go without eating, usually to pray
  • One tenth – ten percent
  • Chest – part of the body where your heart is
  • Pity – to feel sorry or sad for someone else’s suffering or unhappiness
  • Sinner – someone who breaks God’s law and does what God says is wrong
  • To humble – to make yourself lower than another; not prideful
  • Disciple – a student who follows a great teacher and learns from him or her
  • To scold – to correct; tell someone they are doing something wrong
  • Kingdom of God – rule of God over those who follow him and over all of human history

Comprehension Questions

  1. How many people went to the temple to pray?
  2. Who were they?
  3. Where did the religious leader stand and pray?
  4. What did he thank God for?
  5. How was he like or not like the tax collector?
  6. Where did the tax collector stand and pray?
  7. What did he pray?
  8. Whose prayers did Jesus say that God heard and answered?
  9. Who did Jesus tell this story to?
  10. Why did the people bring their children to Jesus?
  11. What was the disciples’ response? How did they feel? What did they do?
  12. What was Jesus’ response to the disciples? Did he agree with them?
  13. What did Jesus say about the children?

Discussion Questions

  1. How do we define greatness? What makes someone a great person?
  2. Describe the difference between the religious leader and the tax collector. What were they like? How do you think society would view the religious leader? How would society view the tax collector?
  3. Why was the tax collector right with God when he went home and not the religious leader? Why did God accept the prayers of one and not the other?
  4. Why did Jesus tell this story? What was his meaning?
  5. What was the disciples’ attitude toward the parents with their children?
  6. What was Jesus’ attitude? How did Jesus view and treat children?
  7. What did Jesus mean by saying that the Kingdom of God belongs to the children? What did he mean by saying that we must become like children?
  8. What is the relationship between these two stories? What do they have in common?
  9. How does Jesus define greatness?
  10. According to these two stories, what is necessary to have a relationship with God?
  11. How are these two stories similar to the story of the two sons?

Thoughts for Later

The Bible says, “People look at the outside, but God looks at the heart.”

  1. How is the outside of our lives different from the inside (from our hearts)?
  2. Who are we more like in our hearts – the religious leader or the tax collector?
  3. Do we want God’s blessing on our lives?
  4. Are we willing to become like a child in order to enter into God’s Kingdom and become one God’s children?