The Self-Righteous

Luke 157 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 15:1–7 (ESV)

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Parallel Text: Matthew 18:12-14

Understanding and Applying the Word

As we enter into chapter fifteen of Luke, it is important to keep in mind that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and scribes who are grumbling about Jesus spending time with “tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus tells three parables to challenge the mindset of these religious leaders who felt they were more worthy of God’s favor because of their superior righteousness.

The first parable is about a shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd had one hundred sheep, but lost one. Unwilling to lose any of his sheep, the shepherd searched until he found the lost one. Upon finding the lost sheep, the shepherd threw a party. Jesus said this is what heaven is like when a sinner repents. There is much celebration over the lost person who is now found.

Why did Jesus say that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance? Understanding this last verse is the key to understanding this parable. The message of Scripture is that there are no righteous persons who need no repentance. In fact, Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jesus’ statement then was to address the mindset of the scribes and Pharisees. They believed they were righteous and had no need to repent. In actuality, they too were sinners and no better off than the tax collectors and sinners that they looked down on. Heaven does not rejoice at those who believe they are righteous because it means they are still lost and in need of salvation.

It is clear that no one is good enough to please God. We are all sinners and must call out for forgiveness. It is the only way to be saved and the Shepherd is seeking out every lost sheep.

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Salt with No Taste

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. On Sundays, I include only a suggested Scripture reading without and commentary. Please be sure to subscribe to this page to follow along each day. We are currently reading through the life of Christ. Thanks!

Reading the Word

Luke 14:34–35 (ESV)

34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Counting the Cost

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Reading the Word

Luke 14:25–33 (ESV)

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus addressed proper priorities in the passages we have been reading the past few days. In today’s reading, he does so again with words that may seem a bit harsh. As Jesus spoke to the crowds that were following him, he said that if anyone came to him and did not hate his closest family members, he could not be a disciple. Wow! Why would Jesus say such a thing? Dis Jesus really teach that we should hate our parents, siblings, spouses, and even ourselves?

Jesus, as he often did, was using hyperbole in his teaching. His words were extreme to set up a strong contrast to the opposing action. Here, he pointed out that if there is anything we love more than him, our priorities are out of line. Jesus, our Lord and Savior, deserves our highest affection and the center of our world. Anything less would be idolatry.

To love Jesus with such a love will cost us something. It may cost us a great deal. Jesus told the crowds if they were to follow him they should count the cost and be prepared for the sacrifice it will require. Following Jesus may cost a disciple family, friends, social status, and financially. Some followers may even lose their lives. However, when Jesus is our first love, all sacrifice is worth it. Are you prepared to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus?

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The King’s Feast

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Reading the Word

Matthew 22:1–14 (ESV)

1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today’s passage shares some similarities with yesterday’s reading from Luke 14:15-24. Both parables speak of a host inviting guests to a celebration and both describe guests who are unwilling to come. In Luke, the reason some declined their invitation was because they had misplaced priorities. In Matthew, the rejections are much more aggressive, even resulting in the death of some of the king’s servants. In response, the king sent his armies to destroy the murderers and also invited others to fill his wedding feast. The king’s orders to gather other guests included both the “good and the bad.” This may be a reference to God’s kingdom invitation to both sinner and religious leader. At the feast, the king notices someone not dressed in proper attire and has him removed from the party.

This parable, as in Luke, deals with God’s invitation to mankind to enter into his kingdom. Matthew’s parable teaches us those who reject the Lord’s invitation do so in rebellion and will be judged for their response to the gospel. We also learn that entrance into the kingdom is on God’s terms, not our own. We must be in the proper attire.

God, in his love and grace, has invited us all to be a part of his kingdom. There is one, and only one, way we can do that. We must repent of our sins and turn to Jesus Christ in faith, believing that his sacrificial death paid the price for our sins and that his resurrection is the assurance that we have eternal life through him. What will you do with God’s invitation?

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A Banquet Invitation

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Reading the Word

Luke 14:15–24 (ESV)

15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told another parable concerning the kingdom of God. He compared it to a banquet where those who were invited put other things as priorities over being a part of the party. One had to check on his field, another had to inspect the oxen he just purchased, and another was just married. The master of the house then instructed his servants to go to the “streets and lanes of the city” and invite the poor and crippled and blind and lame. When the banquet was still not full, the servants were sent to gather others from the “highways and hedges” until the house was filled.

The point of Jesus’ parable is that those who prioritize other things over the kingdom and the invitation to enter, they are not worthy to be a part. God’s kingdom is not for only the Jewish religious leaders, but will include the outcasts of society (i.e. the poor and crippled and blind and lame) and also non-Jews from outside the city on the highways and hedges. God’s kingdom will be full of those who understand its value and place it above all other things.

Is there anything that is keeping you from responding to the invitation to be a part of the kingdom? Jesus says that we must “repent, for the kingdom is at hand.” Do not let the things of this world distract you from the most important thing.

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What Is Our Motivation?

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Reading the Word

Luke 14:12–14 (ESV)

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In Luke 14:7-11, Jesus addressed the issue of guests seeking to be honored by their hosts. In today’s reading, Jesus turned to speak to the host. One should not simply invite those who are able to repay through reciprocal invitations in the future. Instead, one should invite the “poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” These represent those who are not able to repay, which shows true generosity on the part of the host. Such genuine love and giving to others will be rewarded by God in the end.

We must remember that our motivations for our actions are just as important as the actions themselves. Why did you help someone? Was it to be recognized? Was it so you could tell people about it later? Or, was it because you wanted to please the Lord and show others the same love that God has shown to you? In the end, the only thing that will matter is what God thinks of what we have said and done. He knows both the external actions and the internal motivations. May God’s approval be our heart’s desire.

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A Life of Humility

Luke 1410 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 14:7–11 (ESV)

7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Notice that Jesus spoke this parable to those who were choosing the places of honor at the home of the Pharisee (cf. Luke 14:1). Jesus was not just giving theoretical advice with his teaching. He was addressing a real mindset as it was happening! Through this parable, Jesus warned against pride and arrogance. Such a mindset will ultimately lead to shame and embarrassment when the place of honor is taken away and given to someone else. It is the humble person who finds true honor when the master invites him to take the place of honor.

Jesus’ teaching concerned the place of honor at a meal, but it also spoke of the religious leaders’ mindset about their relationship with God. They were proud and arrogant about their righteousness. They believed they were superior to others and had earned their right to be a part of the kingdom of God. To their surprise, Jesus told them that it is the humble person who puts others first who will finally be honored by the Father. The pride and arrogant will be humbled.

The Christian life is one of recognizing the worth in others while also recognizing our own shortcomings. We do not think of ourselves as better than others because we are not. All that we have is simply by the grace of God and the sacrificial death of our Savior. Instead of elevating ourselves above others, we are called to put them first and serve them. We do this by showing others love and through the proclamation of Christ’s love for sinners. When we do that, we follow in the footsteps of our Savior (cf. Philippians 2:1-11).

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What Is the Loving Thing To Do?

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Reading the Word

Luke 14:1–6 (ESV)

1 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was dining at the house of a Pharisee. This is an important detail in this story because the Pharisees were known for their strong emphasis on keeping the law. They were so committed to keeping the law, that they even added additional rules of their own to make sure they kept the law. They were the legalists of Jesus’ day.

One of the laws that was central to Jewish life was the keeping of the Sabbath. No work was to be done. So, when a man with dropsy went to see Jesus on a Sabbath, what would Jesus do? Would he heal the man or would he refuse to work on the Sabbath? Jesus asked his hosts what they thought about the situation. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” he asked. They remained silent, so he asked them if they had a son or an ox that fell into a well on a Sabbath, would they pull the son or ox out. Of course they would! The welfare of a person, or even an animal, is too important. It was not the intent of the law to harm people. So, of course healing a person on the Sabbath is lawful!

Jesus’ questions that confronted the Pharisees legalistic mindset cut to the heart of the matter. In essence, Jesus asked, “What is the loving thing to do?” Would love help a son that fell into a well? Would love pull an ox out of a hole in the ground? Would love walk away from a man with dropsy when healing was possible? We must be careful that our rules and regulations do not become a hindrance to loving others. After all, Jesus said that to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves is a summary of the whole law (cf. Matthew 22:36-40).

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As a Hen Gathers Her Brood

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a Scripture reading for the day. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. Throughout 2019, we will be reading passages from the life of Jesus Christ.

Reading the Word

Luke 13:34–35 (ESV)

34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

Parallel Text: Matthew 23:37-39

Living Without Fear

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Reading the Word

Luke 13:31–33 (ESV)

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’

Understanding and Applying the Word

It is interesting that some Pharisees went to Jesus to warn him about Herod. The Pharisees did not like Jesus. Were they genuinely warning Jesus? Were they simply trying to scare Jesus away?

Jesus was not concerned with the news the Pharisees brought. He was not afraid of Herod. By calling Herod a “fox”, Jesus communicated that he felt Herod was insignificant and without honor. Instead of running away in fear, Jesus intended to continue doing what the Father intended for him. He would finish his course.

Jesus was sold out to do the will of the Father regardless of the opposition. No earthly ruler or power could prevent that. He did not fear others and neither should we. We too must be willing to live fully for our Lord knowing that he is the one truly in power and control. We have no reason to fear those who are opposed to Christ. Our God reigns!

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