Luke18: 9-17

Written by kathleen on May 18, 2014 in - No Comments

Luke 18:9-17

Lessons on Humility

This parable, like the previous one, (persistence of prayer) deals with prayer, but here the issue is the content of the heart as one prays. (Contrasts)

In a way this parable reveals a trap. For as soon as we fall prey to the temptation to divide humanity into any kind of groups, we align ourselves with the Pharisee. Whether our division is between the righteous and sinners, or between the self-righteous and the humble the trap becomes activated.  Anytime you draw a line between who’s “in” and who’s “out,” you will find yourself choosing sides

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The parable takes place at Israel’s most holy site, the temple. It’s not an accident that this exchange takes place on the grounds of the Temple, because you were always intimately aware of who you were, of what status you had, of what you could expect from God   At the Temple, there were “insiders” and “outsiders” and according to these un printed rules there was no question of where the Pharisee and tax collector stood.

But when Jesus dies all this changes as the curtain in the Temple is torn in two symbolically erasing all divisions of humanity before God and is shown here as God justifies not the one favored by Temple law, but rather the one standing outside the Temple gate, and aware of his complete need of grace.

They are on opposite ends of the social spectrum; the Pharisee is a respected religious member in a most honored social group, while the tax collector belongs to one of the most hated professions possible for a Jew.

Jewish tradition dictated that prayer be made in the temple at nine o’clock in the morning, twelve noon, and three o’clock in the afternoon.

So here we find 2 different men, praying 2 different prayers, and getting 2 differing results. One was saved that day and the other was not.

Both qualified to be saved, but only 1 was.

Either could have had the ‘right answer’, but only 1 did.  So what made the difference?

11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector.

12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’   WARNING: Before we judge him too quickly, we might restate his prayer slightly and wonder if we have uttered it ourselves. Maybe we haven’t said, “Lord, I thank you that I am not like other people…”, but what about, seeing someone struggling with life’s circumstances, trying to deal with it differently than we think it should be done?

“There but for the grace of God go I”?

Pride has entered into this mans life and what is most dangerous about pride is it shows right at the start. First, we come to trust in our own abilities rather than trusting God. Second, we come to regard other people with contempt and disrespect rather than seeing them as created equal in the image of God; third we forget the ground is level at the cross!

The Pharisees’ prayer was all about himself. He acts holy and like he’s thanking God, but really he’s praising himself.  He wasn’t really seeking God as by the fact that he was entirely self-centered and “prayed about himself” repeating I” 7 times.

It is entirely possible to address your words to God, but actually be praying to yourself, because your focus is for your agenda, not God’s. That’s when your attitude becomes MY will be done not Thy will be done.

Not only was he saying look at me how great I am by congratulating himself for how righteous he was; but he had fallen into a religious trap causing him to think that one could arrive or be justified by their actions or works  

Not only would a traditional Jew pray three times a day, but he would fast twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays that was almost part of their requirements they had to do to look the part! This was not accidental; Monday and Thursday were market days in Jerusalem, which meant that everyone could see the piety of those who came with the messed up hair and wrinkled clothes of those who fasted.

With long faces they would make their way into the temple to pray so everyone could see their spirituality

Also they believed that Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the law on the fifth day of the week, and that he came down with the law on the second day of the week.

But in this case this man lifted up his own righteousness and good works, and it is clear that he is trusting in himself 7 works for his salvation.

If he was to make it to heaven on his own merit, I guess he would get the credit and be able to sing for all eternity. “How Great I Am”

We all want to feel good about ourselves and how we may serve or worship the Lord but the Bible says to  Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; Prov 27:2

 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

Both men prayed, but both men did not come to God the same way.  The tax collector knows he is a sinner; the Pharisee is confident of his own righteousness.

The tax collector senses that he approaches a holy God, a great and unique being. This man comes with timidity, from a distance, not lifting his eyes to heaven His prayer was just the opposite.

He knows that he possesses no means by which to claim righteousness. He has done nothing of merit; If anything he has done much to offend the law of Israel.

For this reason he stands back, hardly daring to approach the Temple, and throws himself on the mercy of the Lord; recognizing himself as a sinner and realizing his only hope for heaven was not in anything about himself but only in God and His mercy. The contrast could not be greater!

Maybe we should take time and ask ourselves:  Is my prayer about good that I have done or about Jesus and what He did for me on the cross? It’s very important at this point that we all be transparent as we think about our answer; and to make sure our goal is to be right, not to ‘have been right’ all along. 

“God be merciful to me a sinner,” prayed the tax collector with the article “a” better translated as “the,” the tax collector was actually saying, “Lord be merciful to me, the ultimate sinner.” And that was all he said.

Some people have a tendency to think our prayers are answered in direct proportion to how many times we’ve been in church, how many times we’ve had devotions, how many times we’ve given offering.

 (Ever been asked: you pray- you’re hooked up better than me!)

But nothing is further from the truth. Prayer is not based upon merit. It’s based upon mercy. That’s what this sinner discovered—and once you learn this lesson prayer will become an exciting time

Notice that the tax collector made no excuses for his sin. He came in total humility and simply said, “Have mercy upon me, the ultimate sinner.” He didn’t defend himself, explain his sin, justify his rebellion, or vow to do better in the future.

All too often, we come before the Lord and not only say, “Forgive me,” but “I promise I’ll never do that again.”

When you make those kinds of promises, you are expressing a confidence in your flesh that will prove to be an embarrassment to you down the road. You can’t promise not to sin again.

Like the tax man we must simply ask the Father to have mercy upon us. The Greek word for be merciful is hilaskomai; it is actually the word for an atoning sacrifice.

The fullest sense of what the tax man is saying is, “God, be merciful to me through Your atoning sacrifice for sins, because I am a sinner.”

The only other place this word is used in the New Testament is in Hebrews 2:17, where it is translated propitiation.  Heb 2:16-17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. NKJV

A simple contrast is that we can imagine the Pharisee praying with eloquent words and flowing, spiritual style; anyone who heard him pray would say that he was a spiritual man.

And the tax collector would pray awkwardly, with poorly constructed phrases and fear; but! his prayer pleased God.

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This again is a principle that Jesus is emphasizing is if you exalt yourself, you’ll be put down. pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Prov 16:18

James said, “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and He shall lift you up” (James 4:10).

The justification of the tax collector was immediate. He humbly came to God on the basis of His atoning sacrifice and was justified. He didn’t earn his justification he didn’t have a probationary period; he was simply justified.

Once you understand that it is based solely upon mercy, prayer becomes a total pleasure. And when the answers come and the blessings are released and things begin to happen, guess who gets the glory

You can’t take credit because of your spirituality or discipline. You simply glorify God with humility and great appreciation as you stand in awe of His answer to your prayer and His work in your life.

We gain nothing by coming to God in the deception of pride! The principle God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble is so important God repeats it three times in the Scriptures.

Prov. 3:34 He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.

Even when we are grieving the Holy Spirit James 4:6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:10 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up 

15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  

The disciples were acting in good faith. They thought, Jesus is too busy to be bothered with little children. And they thought they were protecting Jesus.

Don’t bother Him with little children. Don’t you know He has more important things on His mind?

Mark tells us that Jesus was indignant with His disciples.  Luke tells us that, after teaching on prayer, Jesus prays blessing on the children brought to Him.

The Greek translation of this statement is masculine, so it was the fathers who were bringing their children to Jesus. Dads, it is both your privilege and responsibility to bring your kids to the Lord that they might be blessed by Him.

How does this happen? We can see the answer in Job 1:4-5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

Knowing his kids were vulnerable to sin perhaps due to his wealth and their youth; Job sacrificed a bull on their behalf so if they forgot the Lord and sinned in their hearts.

I believe this practice is recorded in the Word as an example for you and me.

I have the opportunity every morning to intercede on my kids’ behalf—to ask that the Lord would bless them and use them. Conversely, my failure to do so leaves them vulnerable to the attacks of the Enemy. Dad. Expend the energy bring your children to the Lord in prayer. It’s so important.

16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.                                                                              

The disciples had it wrong. They should not have hindered the children’s approach. So Jesus turns the event into a two-level lesson, one about children the other about disciples

Today in Israel, there are Rabbis that are revered by the people and if you were to go to the Western Wall some of these Rabbis that have gained some kind of reputation among the people so you will see the people coming up to them for a blessing. And they’ll come up to him and they’ll bow and he’ll touch them. The idea is imparting to them a blessing. And so they were bringing the children to Jesus in that same kind of an atmosphere that He might just touch the children as a blessing upon the children. Jesus knows how to communicate & touch you in the way you need 

Jesus knew these children though they did not understand adult speech or teaching, but could respond to a touch.  Children receive the blessing of Jesus without trying to make  them selves worthy of it, or pretending they don’t need it. We need to receive God’s blessings the same way.                          

17 I tell you the truth anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

The kingdom is not X rated for adults only!

The lesson for a Christian is that children are good models for a disciple. Just as children trust their parents and rely on them. So a Christian should rely on God for the simplest things!

The little children in their simple faith and in their simple trust are an example to us of what it takes to enter the kingdom of God.

Just pure innocent simple trust!

I read about a kindergarten class on a field trip to the post office. As the postmaster pointed out the pictures of the Ten Most Wanted Men in America, one of the kids said, “Those are criminals?” “Yes,” answered the postmaster. “Bad guys?” “That’s right.” “Well, then, why didn’t you just keep them when you took their pictures?”

Those childlike qualities of sincerity, sensitivity, and simplicity are key ingredients of kingdom life.

David wrote in Psalm 131, “I will not look into things that are too great for me, but will behave myself quietly as a weaned child.” In other words “I’m not going to get hung up on things that are too complicated or too great about God. Like a weaned child, I’ll just keep it simple.” A weaned child is neither an infant screaming for milk; or are they an adult checking out the refrigerator wondering who’s going to pay the bills.

 A weaned child neither cries nor analyzes. They simply trust that their father and mother will take care of them. And that quality is what Jesus held up to the disciples as a model.

We must guard against the tendencies of being a person who believes that intellectual accent to the scriptures or prideful sophistication because of who or where we are in the body of Christ (the church)makes us something great or special.

The goal is to remain like children if we want to get in; or be great in the kingdom of God.

A distinguished elderly gentleman walked into a toy store and saw a Lionel train going around the track. With a sparkle in his eye, he said to the salesgirl, “I’ll take one.” “Oh, your grandson will love it!” she replied “You know you’re absolutely right!” he said. “Make that two.”

There is something good, Jesus is saying, about retaining a childlike mentality.

At a testimony meeting, a multimillionaire said, “When I was eighteen years old, I heard a missionary speak about the need in Africa. Having recently given my heart to Jesus, I was touched deeply and reached into my pocket for the last five dollars I had to my name. That was the turning point in my walk with God, and He has blessed me ever since.”

“Ooh” and “Aaah,” said the people, until one elderly woman stood up in the back row and said, “I dare you to do it again.”

We might say, “Oh yes, there was a time when I was like a child. When I first heard the gospel, I approached Jesus simply and openly as I came forward at a church meeting.”  Do it again! That’s what Jesus is saying here. We need to be in the place where we’re continually excited about His Word and enjoying the gospel in its simplicity and beauty.

Don’t try to convince yourself that you have a child like trust or faith Humble yourself! Ask God to show you or to convict you if you don’t!

God forbid that your answer be prideful and about you being a good person. Q.  How good is good enough?

The devil’s most successful lie is one that says that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Forgiven people go to Heaven!

Un-forgiven people go to Hell!