The Self-Righteous

Luke 1813–14 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 18:9–14 (ESV)

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This parable addresses the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. Jesus tells of two men who went to the temple to pray. The first, a Pharisee, thanked God that he was not like the sinners of the world. He even commented on his own righteousness by mentioning that he fasted twice per week and tithed on his earnings. The second, a tax collector, could hardly bring himself to the temple to pray. He stood far away and kept his eyes to the ground in shame and humility. He called out to God for mercy for his sins. Jesus ended the parable by saying that it was the tax collector who went home justified, not the Pharisee.

The reason for this parable is given in the opening verse. It was to address those who were self-righteous and looked down on others. Those who are in a right relationship with God have acknowledged their own sin and repented of it. We have asked God to forgive us based not on what we have done, but solely on what Jesus has done for us. He went to the cross as a sacrifice for our sin. If we believe we are righteous by our own doing and somehow deserve God’s blessing, we deceive ourselves and do not belong to God at all. Salvation comes only by grace to sinners who are undeserving.

When we acknowledge our own sin, it should make us humble. We should not look down on others. Instead, we should point fellow sinners to Jesus Christ and tell of the forgiveness and grace that are available to all who will believe.

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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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Do Not Boast

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Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental devotional material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading for the day. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day as we read through the Book of Psalms in 2018.

Reading the Word

Psalm 75:1–5 (ESV)

1 We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. 2 “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. 3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah 4 I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn; 5 do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with haughty neck.’ ”

The Danger of Prosperity

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Reading the Word

Psalm 73:4–9 (ESV)

4 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5 They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. 7 Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. 8 They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. 9 They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Psalm 73:4-9 resumes by speaking about the seeming prosperity of the wicked. They are healthy and well-fed. They live care-free lives. They are proud and arrogant as they speak against others and even against heaven.

These verses describe the danger of prosperity. Great riches and possessions can cause us to become self-sufficient. There is no need to rely on God day-to-day. This is why Jesus said that it is harder for a rich person to go to heaven than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). This is also the point of the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21).

May God give us all that we need, but not so much that we feel we no longer need him. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “Let not the gifts Thy love bestows estrange our hearts from Thee.”

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The Lord Leads the Humble

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Reading the Word

Psalm 25:8–14 (ESV)

8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. 11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. 12 Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. 13 His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. 14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Humility is not easy. It requires us to admit that we do not know it all. It also requires us to admit that we need help. This psalm teaches us that it is the humble that the Lord instructs and leads. The proud do not receive instruction nor are they willing to follow.

For those who are able to turn to God, he offers to teach them what is right and instruct them in the choices they should make. The Bible tells us that when we turn to God in faith that we are given new life through the work of the Holy Spirit and that God begins to work in us to transform us into people who love what is pure and holy. And one day all of God’s people will be with him for eternity and our transformation will be complete. There will be no more sin and the children of God will be holy as he is holy.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!