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Sunday School Lesson (Luke 18:9-14) Pharisee and Tax Collector

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Jesus told this powerful parable to illustrate how God wants us to pray in Luke 18:9-14. The download below includes the complete printable lesson plan, several craft ideas, and bonus coloring pages. It’s everything you need to prepare for your class this weekend.

Sunday School Lesson on the Pharisee and Tax Collector - Luke 18:9-14

“The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector”
from Luke 18:9-14

What is Humility? Sunday School Lesson for Kids


Young children may not yet be familiar with worrying about public prayer, but they have certainly encountered boasting and bragging. This lesson looks at the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector to discuss the meaning and importance of humility, and reminds students that our prayers and our lives should be focused on God.

Lesson focus: When we brag about how great we think we are, it places all of the attention on our own power, and neglects the importance of God’s work in our lives. We should in humility focus on Christ first and foremost, and remember that our strength comes from Him.

Passage: Luke 18:9-14; James 4:10; Matthew 6:7-13; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31

Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th grade (See notes for specific age modifications)

Materials Needed: Construction paper; envelopes; stickers; glue; tape; scissors; decorative supplies; balloons; blocks; cups; Bibles

Bonus Ideas:


Lesson Introduction: Activity Games for Kids

Lesson Opening: Use one of the following games or visuals to illustrate for kids the dangers of boasting:.

  • (Younger students) Balloon blast…talk about how pride can puff us up, sort of like a balloon. Demonstrate this live! Explain that when a balloon gets too full of air, one of two things is likely to happen: Either you let go and it flies recklessly away (with a funny pfffft sound), or it….POPS!
  • What’s inside counts…show students two mugs or cups, making sure they only see the outer part at first. One of them should be nice and clean on the outside, but have dirt or grime inside. The other mug should be older or a bit dirty on the outside, but clean within. Which would they rather drink out of? It might be surprising to see that the pretty and “clean” one was actually too nasty to drink out of safely. Explain that the topic today involves how our heart’s inner intent is more important than what the outer words or deeds proclaim. (This illustration works for multiple age groups).
  • (Older students, or younger if simpler blocks are used) Use Jenga blocks to explain how bragging can lead to a fall. As you have students list things that someone might boast about, stack the blocks higher and higher, until the tower falls over. Describe how trusting our own power rather than setting foundations on the Lord can lead to collapse.

What is bragging? What does it mean to be humble? Explain to students that today they will be talking about humility. This means putting others first, especially putting God first, and not thinking too highly of your own abilities. God cares most about our hearts, and He knows our hearts. Sometimes we might get excited about an achievement and want to tell someone, which is fine. But we shouldn’t do so at the expense of someone else’s worth or feelings. We want to make sure we keep our eyes on Christ.


“Pharisee and Tax Collector” Sunday School Lesson from Luke 18:9-14

Ask students if they pay attention when things happen in church…who remembers what the pastor’s sermon was about? What songs did the choir sing? Was there a prayer given? (Older students may be better at this than young ones.)

Then ask students what they think about such things…what should be our purpose when we come to church, or pray, or talk to people? Sometimes church can feel a little “showy.”  Sometimes when people pray out loud, they worry over what others will think, and maybe use fancy language.

This was a problem in the days of Jesus, as a matter of fact. He told a story about two men who were praying, but for different reasons:

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.’ -Luke 18:9-12

Ask students: How does this man’s attitude sound? Sure, he is telling God “thank you,” but he’s also bragging about how much better he is than other people. How will that make them feel? And is anyone more or less important to God?

No! He loves all of His created children. So who do you think this Pharisee was really trying to get to listen?? Other people, probably…

Well, the parable had another character:

 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.”

So Jesus is saying that this prayer was more precious and meaningful to God. Why? Remember that the tax collectors were not too popular in Jewish society. Here is this “bad guy” begging God for mercy. But he is talking to be heard by GOD. No one else is around. He isn’t bragging or boasting. His mindset is one of genuine humility. He knows that he is nothing without God.

What does this mean for us? It means that what matters most is our purpose, our true heart’s aim. If we want others to see us doing good deeds, we are probably still working for our own credit and gain. We want to brag only about Jesus. If we are working for what other people think, we will never be satisfied, and always be worried! We need only concern ourselves with what GOD thinks of us.

Additionally, let’s not forget that when we pray, it’s for an audience of one. God is the most important one to share with. And Jesus gave us a great example of how to pray:

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil. -Matthew 6:7-13

This does not mean that we have to pray these exact words each time we approach God. However, it does make for a great model for our prayers, and an example of how and what we should say when we talk to the Lord.

We can also rest assured that when we approach God with honest humility, great things can result! Access the following verses as closing reminders for students, and discuss what they might mean…

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. -James 4:10

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
-1 Corinthians 1:30-31

Close the lesson with prayer and thank God for loving us and being present in our lives. Ask for help in being humble and letting the intent of our hearts be focused on the Lord.

Sunday School Crafts: Prayer Pocket Envelopes

The complete directions for this craft are included in the download above. You can also watch our video demonstration to help you prepare it for your Sunday School class.

Sunday School Crafts for the Pharisee and Tax Collector Bible Lesson

Craft Supplies:

  • Construction paper or note cards
  • Scissors
  • Felt or fabric (optional)
  • Tape
  • String or ribbon
  • Markers/decorative materials
  • Envelopes (letter sized)
  • Stickers (optional)

Procedure:

  1. Choose envelope or felt/fabric. If choosing fabric, use glue or pins to secure in a “pocket”
  2. If using the envelope, cut the top flap off and tape the sides.
  3. Add stickers or decorative flair, if desired.
  4. Decorate the note card with prayer reminders or prayer requests.
  5. Place the card into the envelope. Encourage students to carry around or hang in a prominent spot. Pray daily! 

Extra Bible craft ideas…. If you have more material, time, or crafting ability in your group, it might be fun to make another special “prayer prepared” item, such as a prayer pillow or a kneeling pad. Use cloth, cotton filler, and more to make and decorate.

Sunday School Coloring Pages on Prayer

P is for Prayer coloring page for kids
This coloring page about prayer is a great addition to this Sunday School lesson.

time to pray coloring page
This printable coloring page activity shows kids that prayer can be done every day.

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