BGC Museum Exhibit: Picturing the Parables

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (detail)
Andy Rash   Mixed media assemblage  2010

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.  (Luke 18:10-14)

Rash explores the contrast between pride and humility, and God’s recognition of the state of one’s heart. Immediately seen, and in front of all else, is the puffed-up Pharisee, full of himself and his own words. In the background, the tax collector is down in the dirt, wearing the shroud of sackcloth and ashes. The humbled servant has to be sought out by the viewer, focused on to be seen, and even still remains at a distance. Behind the scene though, his prayers are heard, and from the heavens God sees his repentance and he is exalted, while the Pharisee is left to his thin, fragile existence.