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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Don’t Be a Rich Fool

photography of one us dollar banknotes

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:16–21 (ESV)

16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the previous verses (vv. 13-15), Jesus addressed covetousness. In today’s verses, he continues to address the same issue with a parable. A rich man took great care to prepare himself for all of his earthly needs. However, Jesus calls him a “fool.” Why? Because he had laid up all of his treasure for himself and had not been rich toward God.

The rich man’s wealth had caused him to become self-sufficient and we see it in his words. Over and over he says “I will do this” and “I will do that” and “my barns” and “my grain.” He does not need God because of all he has done for himself. The rich man has prepared himself for a future of ease (cf. verse 19) in his own strength.

We are called to use all that we have been given, including our finances, to further the kingdom of Christ. We do this by spreading the gospel and assisting others to do the same. We are rich towards God when we make his purposes the priority of our lives. However, how many of us really do this? If we examined where our time, resources, and money goes, would it look like we are being rich towards God or keeping it all for ourselves? Do we trust that the Lord will provide for our daily needs or are we working to provide for ourselves like the rich fool?

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The Danger of Prosperity

woman in maroon long sleeved top holding smartphone with shopping bags at daytime

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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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