Sunday, July 31, 2016

Luke 18:9-14

Luke 18:9-14
And He said this parable to the ones who were convinced within themselves that they are righteous while also despising others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray – one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector.  After standing, the Pharisee was praying these things. ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortionists, unrighteous ones, adulterers, or even as this tax-collector.  I fast twice between Sabbaths.  I tithe on everything – as much as I possess.’  And the tax-collector, having stood far off, was not even desiring to lift up an eye to heaven.  But he was beating his breast while saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’  I say to you all, this one came down into his house having been justified more than the other.  For everyone who exalts Himself will be humbled.  But the one who humbles Himself will be lifted up.”

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

Again, let’s make sure that we note the context of this parable.  Jesus is teaching this to a specific group of people.  He is teaching this to the group of people who believe that they are righteous yet still find it within themselves to look down on others.  This is really easy to do.  In fact, I daresay that every single one of us has people in their life about whom we think we are better than them.  Maybe we’re smarter.  Maybe we dress better.  Maybe we eat better.  Maybe we drive a better car, or even drive it better.  Maybe we are older.  Maybe we are younger.  Maybe we are more wealthy.  Maybe we’re less wealthy but better at how we use money.  I can keep going.  But the reality is that each of us has categories of people that we really believe that we are better than them.  It is that very attitude that Jesus is attacking in this parable.

Who do you think you are better than?  Why do you think human beings have an easy time finding people about whom we think we are better?

Second Thought:

If we compare the two men, there are some really obvious comparisons.  The Pharisee stands before God able to list all of his great attributes.  He makes a case for his greatness.  In fact, he misses the point completely.  None of us are righteous.  Not even one of us.  If we stand before God and explain to Him why we are better than others, we miss the boat entirely.  Even on our best day, we are not worthy.  The tax collector, on the other hand, gives a short humble prayer.  He doesn’t even deign to approach the altar very closely!  He acknowledges that he is a sinner and asks for mercy.  He has it figured out.  He knows that he is a sinner.  He knows that everything depends upon God’s mercy and his grace.  If we are to be received by Him, we will be received because He forgives us, not because we deserve it.

When you relate to God, do you spend time justifying yourself?  How does humble contrition show itself in your prayer life?  How does humble contrition show itself in your life to which others have access?

Third Thought:

Which man goes home justified?  The one who was humble, that’s who.  This is why it is important not to judge other people with respect to salvation.  If we looked only at the outside, we no doubt would thin the Pharisee a more righteous person, living out God’s Law better and being in a closer relationship with God.  But Jesus tells us that reality is not how it appears.  In truth, when it comes to the matters of the heart, the tax collector had it right.  He might not have been perfect in application, but his heart knew truth.  That’s what is important.  If we seek to make ourselves exalted, we show fundamentally that we just aren’t walking as closely with the Father as we think we are because we’ve messed up this most fundamental lesson.

Do you exalt yourself?  Do you desire to be the center of attention?  Do you desire to be seen by others as being better?  How can the pursuit of these ideals actually lead us away from a truly godly understanding of our position and situation?

Passage for Tomorrow: Luke 18:15-17
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