Who is Jesus telling this parable to, and why does he tell it?

Compare and contrast the behavior of the two men in Jesus’s story. Based on their behavior, what can we derive about their beliefs, and their respective heart postures?

Why is it that the tax collector returns home justified, while the Pharisee does not?

What are some examples of ways in which the heart of the Pharisee (self-righteousness, trusting in one’s self, treating others with contempt) might manifest itself in our lives today? How can we be on guard against this?

What does this parable teach us about soteriology (the doctrine of salvation)?

Why is it dangerous to compare yourself to other people?

How can we, as Christians, be careful to ground our assurance of salvation in who Christ is, and what He has done? (As opposed to who we are, and what we have accomplished?)

Think back to when you heard this parable for the first time. Were you surprised? Why or why not? Why do you think that would this parable have been so shocking to its original hearers?