Luke: Self-Righteousness and Little Children

Read: Luke 18:9-17

Luke makes a special note to address two particular groups of people in today’s passage: the self-righteous and children. The first comes in the form of a parable, the second is more direct. Both compel us to pause and consider these particular red-letter words from Jesus.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but this time reading through Luke, it’s really interesting to see how he sets up the text in his effort to “write an orderly account for you” (Luke 1:3). In this case:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable Luke 18:9

The key to success in spreading the gospel seems to hinge on humility. If we believe that God is truly the Creator, that Jesus is truly His Son, and that the Holy Spirit is alive and well within each of those who profess Jesus as Lord, this shouldn’t be difficult. But obviously, it is!

The challenge, of course, is if we call someone out as being self-righteous, we have to wonder if we’re the ones being just a little more righteous than the one at the other end of our pointed finger.

In this parable, Jesus reminds us how not to act as well as how to act by providing two extreme examples. The Pharisees are notorious for their superior knowledge and prominent place in society while tax collectors fall at the other end of the spectrum, known for their arrogance and selfishness. The twist is no surprise to anyone who heard the original story: the sinful tax collector is the hero in this case.

For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Luke 18:14

I’m sure we can substitute various people groups in either category, but what I’m wondering about is this, how do we keep from falling into the trap of false humility? This is why we gather as a community of faith, or at least it’s one of the many reasons why we don’t do this alone. This requires honesty and integrity, something that should set Christ-followers apart from the rest of society. I hope this serves as a reminder for all of us because it seems like those inside church walls are no different than those far from Christ. Not something to be proud of in the least!

Then come the children.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Luke 18:16

We love to pull this out of context, but I’m not here to judge. Lots of signs hang around the children’s departments of churches with this verse — I’m not judging them! I’m only suggesting that Luke put this short section here on purpose. Compared to the Pharisees and the humble tax collector, we need to come before the Creator of the universe like little children. Innocent. Completely trusting.

I hope you look at the featured image on this post and smile. The two children that are hanging onto the hands of this father have complete faith and trust as he swings them around on the beach. What a wonderful time! The memories of joy and laughter fill my mind.

This is how we should approach our glorious Father in heaven. It would never cross the minds of these children to even attempt to reverse the roles. Can you imagine the little boy or girl saying to the father, “let me swing you, daddy!” That would be absurd! Exactly!

Lord, help us to have childlike faith while being bold and humble. It’s so simple to write, much more challenging to live out.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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