God Won’t Be Bought

Today’s reading is Luke 21.

I simply do not think it is a coincidence that the poor widow is exalted as an example right after Jesus belittled the scribes for devouring widows’ houses. The Law was clear; the mistreatment of widows was an abomination (see Exodus 22:22-24). Isaiah 1: 12-17 is profoundly parallel to Luke 20:45-21:4. As in Isaiah’s day, the scribes were trampling God’s courts. Their long prayers were an abomination because they did not correct oppression or plead the widow’s cause. As Isaiah went on to do in his book, Luke goes on in the rest of this chapter to describe the judgment that will now be coming upon Israel. Perhaps it is a mere coincidence, but the word translated “greater” in Luke 20:47 is from the same family as the word “abundance” in Luke 21:4. That is, those who gave out of their abundance would still receive the more abundant condemnation. Their abundant gifts will not change that one iota. God will not be bought. God will not be bartered with. God wants all of us. We can’t pick and choose the bits we want to give to Him. We can’t pay Him off to make up for it. We can’t “do church” right enough to make up for lacking love, compassion, and justice. Of course, we must also recognize it goes the other way. We can’t “do mercy” enough to make up for worshiping God falsely either. The point here is not that one is better than the other. The point is if we try to pick and choose, we’ll never be able to drop enough money in the plate to buy God’s favor. God won’t be bartered with. God won’t be bought. We must render to God all that is His, and that is all that is us.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 21.

Continue reading “God Won’t Be Bought”

A True Example

Today’s reading is Luke 21.

You know what would be super cool? To be Jesus’s ultimate example. Think about it. How would you like it if Jesus called His disciples together, pointed at you, and said, “You know all this stuff I’ve been talking about for the past three years? That person right there, that person is getting it right. That person is what I’ve been talking about.” Wouldn’t that be cool? That actually happened. Luke recorded it, but I’ve overlooked it most of my life because it is just four verses, the person isn’t even named, and I always thought it was just written to teach us about how to give into the collection. I’m talking about the unnamed widow who put two little coins into the temple treasury. Really, I encourage you to reread all of Luke and see if you can’t see how so much of what Jesus taught culminates in the example of this widow. Even in this immediate context she is set up as a contrast not merely to the rich that are likely looking down on her paltry contribution, but as a contrast to the scribes from the end of the previous chapter. You would think that men who spend their days copying and teaching God’s law would stand out as the ultimate examples. No. They are pretenders who look spiritual but actually defraud widows. As Luke records it, almost as soon as Jesus highlights this about the scribes he sees a literal widow who isn’t defrauding others. She isn’t taking from the less fortunate. Rather, she is defrauding herself in order to support the temple. As Jesus had said to the brothers arguing about an inheritance, life isn’t made up of possessions. Now we see a woman who really believes that. Wow! I want to be more like her.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 21.

Continue reading “A True Example”

Repent

Today’s reading is Luke 19.

Jesus continues to meet real life representatives of His story about the Pharisee and the tax collector. Last week, He met the rich ruler, a Pharisee if there ever was one. Then he met the blind beggar, who like the little children was hindered from calling out to Jesus by the crowds, and who like the tax collector of Jesus’s story simply begged for mercy. And now, Jesus meets an actual tax collector. This meeting gives us some insight to the justification of the tax collector in the story. Justification doesn’t come simply by saying the right words in a prayer. That prayer was the manifestation of a penitent heart, just as Zacchaeus’s reaction to Jesus was. The rich ruler walked away sad from Jesus. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, received Jesus joyfully and responded to His teaching. He repented. He restored fourfold to all those he had swindled (as tax collectors were wont to do in those days), however, beyond that he gave half of all he had to the poor. In the account of Zacchaeus, the people call him a sinner. But he was just like the tax collector in the story. He didn’t need others to call him a sinner. He knew exactly who he was, but he also knew exactly who Jesus was. Jesus was offering mercy. Zacchaeus understood. What response could there be but repentance, turning his life over to Jesus. This is what the justification of Jesus’s story looks like.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 19.

Continue reading “Repent”

Have Mercy On Me

Today’s reading is Luke 18.

In Jesus’s story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, we met a character who was certain he was doing enough and a character who begged for mercy. As the chapter continues, we meet a man who was certain he was doing enough and a man who begs for mercy. The rich ruler may have thought there was something lacking, but when he heard what it was, he went away sad (instead of justified). Then we meet the blind man who begs twice for mercy from Jesus. Can Luke be any clearer in the connections between Jesus’s parable and these actual men? When we read a contrived story, it may be hard to make real life applications. What would these situations look like in real life? We saw the Pharisee’s real life counterpart in the rich ruler. It looks like someone who thinks Jesus is a great teacher, but not great enough to actually obey when He says something really, really hard. Then we meet one of the counterparts with the tax collector in the blind man who cries out to Jesus despite the crowd trying to shush him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” It looks like someone going against the crowd. It looks like enough faith to seek Jesus even when people are telling you to be quiet. And isn’t this another parallel to the children we read about after Jesus’s story? Just as folks tried to hinder the children, folks tried to hinder the blind man. Here is childlike humility and trust. His story in Luke ends by following Jesus and being a reason for the crowds to glorify God. And finally, if we can draw one more connection to earlier passages in Luke. Jesus says to the blind man, “Your faith has made you well.” This is the exact same phrase Jesus said to the sinful woman in Simon the Pharisee’s house in Luke 7:50 and to the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8:48. Almost all miracle stories are salvation pictures. This is no exception. Without Jesus we are blind. But if we turn to Him for mercy no matter what the crowds say, we will find mercy, salvation, and justification. Praise the Lord!

Monday’s reading is Luke 19.

Continue reading “Have Mercy On Me”

Too Grown to Receive the Kingdom

Today’s reading is Luke 18.

Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Then He runs into a living, breathing version of one of His story characters. While it is true that a “ruler” of the Jews was not necessarily a Pharisee, that is most likely the case here. We find this term ruler used in Luke to refer to a ruler of the synagogue (Luke 8:41), a ruler of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1), then as Jewish leaders connected with the chief priests (Luke 23:13; 24:20). Since he is asking about inheriting eternal life, he is not likely one of the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection (see Luke 20:27-40). What is the problem with the rich ruler? A lack of childlike faith and reception. He was too grown to receive the kingdom. We might find it hard to believe someone would really act like the Pharisee in Jesus’s story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the middle of a prayer to God. That seems a bit over the top. However, we see how such an attitude of arrogance, pride, and self-deception acts out in real life. Here is a man just like the Pharisee of Jesus’s story. He has kept the law. We don’t see him bragging in prayer, but we do see him turn away in sadness at Jesus’s instruction. He is not childlike enough to simply accept what Jesus says and do it. Who knows, maybe he does later. But at this point, he leaves Jesus in sadness without the kingdom and unjustified. The message is don’t be so grown up you miss the kingdom.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 18.

Continue reading “Too Grown to Receive the Kingdom”

A Case Study in Stewardship

Today’s reading is Luke 16.

Earlier in the week we saw Jesus’s three point sermon on stewardship. Now we see a case study of stewardship. Jesus’s earlier parable encouraged the sons of light to be as shrewd in their preparations for the future as the sons of this world are. Now we see an example of a son of light who was not shrewd enough. The rich man was shrewd enough to think and act like a son of the world. He had used his finances shrewdly enough to be prepared to live in this world. However, he had not behaved as a son of light should. He had not made friends by means of his unrighteous wealth so that he could be welcomed into eternal dwellings. He had left Lazarus on his very own doorstep, poor, destitute, hungry. In eternity, he begged for mercy from Lazarus, but he had been unwilling to give any mercy to Lazarus while on this earth. The rich man was not welcomed by Lazarus into eternal dwellings, but even worse, he wasn’t even able to receive the least service of hospitality from Lazarus. In life, there was nothing but a gateway between the rich man and Lazarus. In eternity, there was a gulf too wide to cross. The rich man wouldn’t be bothered to help Lazarus in life. In eternity, even if Lazarus wanted to bestow mercy on the rich man, he couldn’t. I know we are wont to make this story of Lazarus and the rich man about a response to Jesus and being baptized. However, whether this story is a parable or an account of real events (as some suggest), it was about people before turning to Jesus was even a possibility. This is about being a shrewd, faithful, loyal steward. The rich man was not. Jesus is placing an exclamation point on His sermon about stewardship. We need to see it. Israel didn’t listen when Moses and the Prophets said to love God and love your neighbor. Will we listen when the one who rose from the dead said so?

Monday’s reading is Luke 17.

Continue reading “A Case Study in Stewardship”

Counting the Cost

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

If we want to be Jesus’s disciple, we must count the cost. We don’t want to be like the fellow who starts to build a house, couldn’t actually afford it, and leaves a half finished monument to his poor planning. The cost? Renouncing everything. Isn’t it interesting that the cost is not paying everything? Even when the fellow we often call the rich, young ruler came to Jesus, Jesus didn’t say, “Sell all you have and give it to Judas my treasurer.” Jesus was no cult leader trying to get rich off the backs of gullible followers. However, this isn’t just about money. This whole teaching was actually based on Jesus’s claim that before we come to Him, we must hate our father, mother, wife, children, siblings, and even our own life. We are giving our allegiance to Jesus. We must be ready to renounce everything, including our family, our livelihood, anything we believe makes up our life right now in our service to Him. In other words, Jesus is to become our life. Renouncing doesn’t mean getting rid of everything. It means renouncing our claim on everything and everything’s claim on us. What is ours becomes His to be disposed of, dispersed, distributed, deposited, destroyed, defended as Jesus sees fit. Am I really willing to hand everything over to Jesus? Is there something in my life that if Jesus asked me to give it up, I’d say, “No.” If so, I need to keep counting. Don’t answer that question thinking, “Well, yes, there are some things I’d never give up, but Jesus would never ask me to give those up.” He may not. But He may. Is Jesus more important to you than anything else? Your reputation, your mother, your house, your spouse, your car, your business, your father, your acclaim, your children, your job, your pleasures, your pursuits, your goals, your desires, your identity, your money, your sexuality, your savings, your trophies, your retirement. We live in a culture that says no one has the right to ask this of us. In fact, no one does…except one. Our Creator, our Savior, our King. The good news is knowing that Jesus only asks of us what is best for us eternally. Understand, this is not really a question of whether you will renounce everything. You will. You already do. There is something in your life that holds sway over everything that might be considered important to you. There is something for which you will sacrifice everything no matter how painful or traumatic. It is different for each of us. Jesus says make it Him. Have you counted the cost?

Continue reading “Counting the Cost”