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The Parable of
THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN
“Kim, will you help me with my algebra homework?” Doug asked. Kim looked up at him, surprised. “If I don’t pass algebra, the coach is going to bench me”, he explained. Doug was breathtaking in his football uniform. He was easily the most hansom fellow in Senior High. She was under the impression that his “type” rarely spoke to her “type”. Not that she was, by any means, unattractive. In fact, she had a pleasant face and a warm smile. She simply didn’t have time for make-up and trendy clothes. She was as natural as fresh air.
Unlike most of the “popular” crowd, she enjoyed the academic aspects of school. She was as gifted as she was talented, and she had the compassion of a saint. She was known for helping those who struggled with what she found to be easy. She volunteered her time with the school newspaper and student council, and served as secretary to the class president.
Although she was the cornerstone in these organizations, she kept out of the limelight. She performed her work quietly and efficiently, and was rarely recognized for her contributions. She came up with constructive ideas for improving all areas of the school. She launched fund raising events for the band, the cheerleaders, the science club, chess team, debate committee, and the photojournalism club. Not only that, but she put her actions behind her words, and contributed her efforts as though the cause was for herself.
Even though this was only her second year in this new school, she was fairly well known by most of the student body. Despite all this, her social life was limited to a few good girlfriends. She never dated because she was never asked.
When the Senior Prom was scheduled, she and her girlfriends decided to all go in a group, since none of them had much hope for a date. They determined to enjoy themselves with or without escorts. On the other hand, Kim certainly didn’t want to throw a perfectly good fish back in the water.
“Sure, Doug”, she said. “I’d be happy to help.”
They decided to study at Doug’s place. She figured he might not want to be seen with her, but he said it was because she had too many younger brothers and sisters that might bother them while they were studying, and he seriously wanted help. She found out he was an only child, and his parents were wonderful, kind, and friendly. They studied at the kitchen table, and were offered frequent refreshments by his mother, who profusely thanked her for helping her son.
Doug was a perfect gentleman during their study sessions, and worked hard to understand. What surprised her, though, was that he was also nice to her at school, in front of her friends as well as his. With her patient and effective tutoring over the next few weeks, he began to grasp the complexities of algebra, until finally, they both felt that he would be ready for his next exam.
“Are you going to the prom with anyone?” he asked after his last study session.
“I’m going with a group of my girlfriends”, said Kim. “Who are you going with?”
“Well”, said Doug, “last semester I asked Candi… that is, she asked me. I told her I’d go with her. But now that I’ve gotten to know you better, I wish we could go together. I’d probably have a lot more fun.”
Kim was astonished. “What’s wrong with Candi?” she asked. “She’s the prettiest girl in school, and head cheerleader, besides. I thought the football stud was supposed to go to the prom with the head cheerleader. You know, ‘King and Queen’ of the prom.”
Doug sighed and shook his head. She was all I ever knew, until you came along. I never realized how many things there are to do and talk about, other than seeing movies and hearing gossip. You’re different. Maybe you and I could go out sometime. Do you like bowling? Karaoke? Skating?”
“Let’s wait until after the prom before we start thinking like that. You made a commitment to Candi, and you should keep it.”
Kim pretty much put the conversation out of her mind. She thought he was just being thankful for her help. The dazzling beauty of Candi in her prom dress would surely melt thoughts of her right out of his mind.
Still, she looked forward to the prom night with eagerness to go out with her friends. She and her mother found a beautiful gown, and she was told that her parents had set money aside for this very occasion. Her mother also took her to a beauty parlor for a makeover. She was delighted at the results. On prom night, she and her friends rented a limousine and went in style. All night long, they had fun, dancing by themselves and with each other.
When it was approaching time to crown the King and Queen of the Prom, Candi and a few other girls were in the restroom, fixing their make-up. Kim was washing her hands.
“How do I look?” Candi asked her friends.
“You look fine”, they assured her.
“What if Doug doesn’t get elected King?” asked one of them.
“Who cares?” replied Candi. “It’s only for one dance. I’m kind of hoping Doug doesn’t get it anyway. I voted for Todd.”
“You and Todd?” they squealed.
“How long has this been going on?”
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
“Because I told Doug I’d go to the prom with him”, Candi said. “We’re going to break up after tonight.”
“Can I have him?” one of them laughed.
“Suit yourself”, Candi said with a shrug.
One of their teachers poked her head in the room. “It’s time”, she said.
A hush fell over the expectant crowd. A teacher was on stage with a microphone. “And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for”, she announced. She opened one of the envelopes she held in her hand. “This year’s Prom King is… Doug Hastings!” The crowd clapped and cheered as Doug went up to receive his crown.
“Too bad”, whispered Candi to her friends. “I guess I should have told everyone about me and Todd.”
“And now”, the teacher said, “this year’s Prom Queen.” She opened the other envelope. “Kim Jennings!” she announced. Kim was as surprised as Candi was.
“My mother’s never going to believe this”, she heard Candi say. Those were Kim’s thoughts exactly.
When she went up the stairs, Doug offered his hand. When she took it, he whispered, “I voted for you, too.”
As she accepted the crown, she looked around the room. Her friends whooped and hollered. As she looked into their faces, she saw that she had more friends than she realized. It finally dawned on her that a real crown was made up of friends. True friends. It was built with character and love.
THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN (Luke 18:10-14)
“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one was a Pharisee (a priest), and the other a publican (a despised tax collector). The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon 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. Every one that exalts himself shall be humbled, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.”