I John 4:20, it is impossible to love God and to hate your brother. In the instance of the Pharisee and the tax-collector, the former had long ago lost any affection toward the latter thereby nullifying any relationship with the Father.
Jesus told parables for very clear reasons and purposes. His desire was for the hearers to relate themselves to the particular circumstances of the life lesson. In this case, He is beckoning for the hearer to either take one or two positions -- to understand that they are related to eeither the Pharisee or the tax-gatherer. God is telling us that it is good to be related to one or the other. It is actually a travesty if one can not relate themselves to either. (As Jesus stated in Revelations 3:16, He wished that the church at Laodicea were either hot or cold but because of their indifference that they were in peril of God's rejection.) If one identifies themselves as one that has been self-righteous and judgmental of others, then there is the grace and mercy of God that he extends to all that would but humble themselves. That is the first step toward understanding that we all truly are no better than a tax-gatherer.
However, for those who might not believe or understand that they are plagued by self-righteous destruction, here are a couple of clues that should work as a litmus test to determine whether one regards themselves as "righteous":
1) God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. -- The Pharisee (or the self-righteous church-goer) prays to God, masquerading their contempt for others with thanksgiving that he or she is not like "other" people. They can easily mask their inner disdain and hatred for others in "religious" contexts. Rather than "praying the Word" over others in secrecy, the hypocrite would choose to "pray their gossip" over others! They justify this sort of behavior by their "concern" for the church body and its need to "get right with God".It's interesting to note that those who truly know they are wrong and needing God's mercy confer with no one nor judge anyone. They don't go to the self-righteous and make their case with them, seeking pardon. They don't even have the confidence to lift their eyes toward heaven, but they cry out to God saying, "Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner!". Without fail, this person will go up to their house justified as they pour out their hearts to God, where those who self-righteously attest to their own goodness have only deceived themselves. These await nothing but loneliness and eternal isolation, the very things they have created for themselves here on earth.
2) I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. -- Outward forms of so-called spirituality give carnal license for others to be hateful of those they judge. After all, fasting and giving tithes gives a so-called believer the "right" to talk about others since they are such a integral part of the church. In their reasoning, if "Aunt Betty" is cooking for every social that is on the church calendar, doesn't that give her the right to voice her opinion? With an attitude of concern about the "sinner", of course!
Jesus states that whoever shall humble themselves shall be exalted and whomever exalts themselves will be humbled. These are our choices, in the time that we have here with one another, which will decide how we will live or die throughout eternity.
Your Barefoot Servant,