Thursday, February 26, 2015, 7:28 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Blessed Are You.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 18:9-17 (NASB).
Pride and Humility
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
This should be a warning to all of us to guard our hearts against pride, and against trusting in our own intellect, reasoning, physical health or strength, talent, and/or human resources, and against thinking ourselves somehow superior to others whom we may deem less fortunate than us. We are all human beings. We are all born into sin. And, we only have what we have by the grace of God, no matter what it is. Outside of faith in Jesus Christ we are all destined to spend eternity in hell, without hope and without God. None of us earn or deserve our own salvation. We are only saved by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Even the faith to believe is a gift from God. God is completely sovereign over our lives, so what he has given to us he can also take away. All that we have in the way of material wealth or intellect or prestige is all destined to perish. One day we will all die and we will have to stand before God and give an account to God for what we did with Jesus. So, no matter how important we may think we are in this life, it will count for nothing in eternity.
I find it particularly interesting that Jesus said the Pharisee was praying to himself. I wonder how many people pray, thinking that they are praying to God, but they are really just praying to themselves. So, what precipitates people praying to themselves thinking they are praying to God? First of all, if someone is a non-believer in Jesus Christ, and thus does not have a relationship with God, and if that person is not humble before God, and is unwilling to accept Jesus as Lord of his life, and he thinks he is righteous in himself because he is a “good deed doer,” then that might be an occasion when one would pray to himself. Or, the same could apply to someone who has a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. If we are holding on to sin in our lives, and we are not willing to humble ourselves before God in repentance, and so we are just playing Christian, and we are just going through the motions in order to appear righteous, we may be guilty of praying to ourselves and not to God at all, because we are just performing and we are not really communicating with God.
On the other hand, if we are like the tax collector in realizing our own sinfulness and our need of Jesus Christ, and we humble ourselves before God, then he will exalt us. We don’t need to exalt ourselves. God will hear our prayers, and he will answer them. We just need to realize our own unworthiness, and submit our lives to the cross of Christ and to following our Lord Jesus in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. We need to find in Jesus Christ our all-sufficiency instead of relying upon our own human resources. And, we need to be humble, as well, when it comes to how we treat others, realizing that we are no better than anyone else, for we were all born into sin and we all need Jesus to save us.
And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
The culture of that day and country is so much different than the culture of today here in America, so it is difficult for me to identify with what the disciples were thinking or why they rebuked the people for bringing their children to Jesus. The closest my understanding comes to this is that, in my childhood years, there was an attitude among many adults that children were to be seen but not heard. I have little recollection of any kind of relationship with my grandparents. Neither of my grandfathers paid much attention to me or to my siblings and cousins unless we were doing something bad, I think. One grandfather lived in town. My other grandfather and my step-grandmother I never knew at all. They lived out of town. Even the one time I do remember us visiting them, we kids slept in the car and I don’t think either of them spoke with us. I never had any communication with them at all.
I don’t know why they were the way they were. Perhaps it is just the way they were taught, i.e. it was the culture under which they were brought up. I suspect much was the same for the disciples. From what I understand, women and children back then were considered more like property and were not regarded with the same degree of importance and value as men. Yet, Jesus treated all people – male, female and children – with the same amount of love, concern, respect, care and value. That means the world to me! So, I think the disciples were operating under a misunderstanding. I believe they thought Jesus would be bothered somehow by having children brought to him, and so they thought what they were doing, perhaps, was being helpful and was showing consideration of their master and Lord. Yet, they didn’t understand that Jesus came for all people, and he loved everyone equally.
Jesus used this situation as an opportunity to teach a spiritual lesson. Children tend to be very trusting and believe easily. Their minds are not cluttered with a whole bunch of knowledge which might hinder many adults from having such child-like faith. So, children serve as wonderful examples of having the kind of faith that is necessary for us to have in Jesus in order for us to enter the kingdom of God. The tax collector in the story above had this kind of child-like faith. This kind of faith takes Jesus at his word, and does what he says. If Jesus says we must die to our old lives of sin if we want to come to him, this faith believes him and it acts on that belief by doing what is required, yet not in human strength or wisdom, but in the power and working of the Holy Spirit. Child-like faith is humble, submissive, obedient, and trusting. And, this is the kind of faith we all need to have.
The objects of this misunderstanding by the disciples or of the contempt shown by the Pharisee were those who were poor in spirit, i.e. they were humble and trusting in God. They were rejected because they were considered as less valuable than other people. Perhaps we might identify with the Pharisee or with the disciples, and God is speaking to our hearts that we need to not ever think of others as less valuable than ourselves.
Or it could be that we have been the objects of such disdain or misunderstandings, and so we identify with the tax collector or with the children, and thus we are so grateful for God’s love for us and that Jesus does not treat us like other humans have treated us. Yet, maybe we have unforgiveness in our hearts towards those who have mistreated us and we need to repent of that sin, or perhaps we have been depressed over our misfortune, and so we need to trust in God’s sovereignty over our lives and consider it all joy whenever people persecute us. Jesus said we are blessed when we are treated thus, and we should rejoice. We should forgive those who have mistreated us, and we should pray for them, say kind things about them, and we should do good to them. And, we need to keep on obeying our Lord despite how others treat us, and then just rest in God’s love, because he cares for us.
Blessed Are You / An Original Work / August 29, 2012
Based off Luke 6:20-49 NIV 1984
“Blessed are you;
Blessed are you who are poor
For God’s kingdom is yours.
Blessed are you;
Blessed are you who are hungry,
You’ll be satisfied.
Blessed are you;
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you will laugh with joy.
Blessed are you;
Blessed are you when men hate
And reject you because of Christ.”
“Rejoice in that;
Rejoice in that day and
Leap for joy; great your reward.
But I tell you;
But I tell you to love those
Who hate you; do them good.
Pray for those who;
Pray for those who treat you wrong
And say kind things of them.
Do to others;
Do to others as you would have
Them do; have them do to you.”
“If you love those;
If you love those who love you,
What praise is there for you?
Because Christ is;
Because Christ is kind,
Be merciful, just like He is.
Forgive others their offense
Against you; be ye kind.
Hear My words and;
Hear My words and put them
Into practice, then you’ll be fulfilled.”