Publican and Pharisee



  1. Children should be able to say the words “publican” and “Pharisee” and know their meanings.
  2. Children should know whose prayers God listened to and why.


Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.


Jesus told a story called a parable to the people. A parable is a story that teaches a lesson. This story is about two men who both went to the temple to pray. A temple is like a church. One of these was a Pharisee. Can you say “Pharisee”? A Pharisee was a man who spent his life studying the law of Moses and praying. He wore special clothes that told everyone he was a Pharisee. But this man came to the temple bragging to God about how good he was, and how wonderful were the things that he did, and how he wasn’t at all like other men. He stood tall with his own pride in all his deeds for God. His prayer was full of self-love, not love of God.

Another man was there. He was a Publican. Can you say “Publican”? A publican was a tax collector. In that day, some men collected taxes for the hated Romans and often stole some of the money for themselves. This man was sorry for his sins. He asked God to forgive him for his sins. He was so sad, he couldn’t even raise his head off the ground.

Jesus asked the people which prayer was heard by God? The Pharisee or the Publican? Of course, God would listen to the prayer of a holy man like the Pharisee, but not that of a hated tax collector. Jesus told the people that God honored the prayer of the tax collector who humbled himself before God and not the prayer of the Pharisee, full of pride and self-love

What is a publican? Who else have we met who is a tax collector? (Zaccheus and Matthew) Review their stories briefly. What did the publican pray? What is a Pharisee? (a respected man of the temple) What did he pray? Which did God listen to? Why?

  1. Read the story in the Zondervan Bible Storybook. Don't have it? Here's the story:


  1. Feed the Elephant True/False Questions:

True                                                     False

            A publican is a tax collector.                           A publican is a teacher.

            A Pharisee is a respected man of the temple. A Pharisee is a garbage collector.

            God listened to the prayer of the publican.    God listened to the Pharisee.


  1. Talk a bit about humility: How do you feel when you win a race? Get a prize? Do something good? This feeling is called pride. Some pride is OK. But the Pharisee had done many good things – so many good things that he was always bragging about himself, even to God! Do you ever brag when you do something good? How does it make you feel? How does it make other people feel? Do you feel like you’re better than other people? Does it look that way when you brag? Did the Pharisee think he was better than the publican? Was he in God’s eyes? Have you ever done anything wrong – ever disobeyed God or your parents, cheated in school, hit your brother, yelled at your sister, etc.? None of us is perfect; we all make mistakes. When we pray, should we brag, or should we ask God to help us obey Him even better? Remember the Beatitudes: can anyone recite “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”? Which was poor in spirit – the publican or the Pharisee? Which will inherit the kingdom of heaven?


  1. Make Publican and Pharisee dolls. See the pattern on the next page.


  1. Close with prayer. Try St. Ephraim’s Prayer, rehearsing complete with prostrations for upcoming Great Lent. Is this prayer like the Publican’s or the Pharisee’s?