Our Progressive Christian Bible lesson for this week will be part 1 of Luke chapter 18

Stories of Persistence, Arrogance and Humility

[Luke chapter 18, verses 1-14]

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stars in space

Last week when we finished up the 17th chapter of the gospel of Luke, Jesus had explained to the apostles some of the things that would happen at the time of the Rapture of the church. “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it”, Jesus explained to his apostles, “and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” So whoever lives only for themselves will be dead for eternity and eternally condemned, while those who live for and dedicate their lives to following Jesus Christ and his teachings will achieve immortality in the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These two ultimate fates of humankind are polar opposites of one another! This week as we move on to chapter 18, Jesus is exhorting his apostles to enrich their prayer life, and then gives them an illustration of how this can be done. So let’s go to the first verse of Luke chapter 18 as we continue from last week.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them they should always pray and not give up. He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will God not bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’” (Luke 18, verses 1-8)

As you can see, this is a continuation of Jesus’ train of thought through the eyes and ears of the apostle Luke. Previously he had told the Twelve near the end of chapter 17, “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it”. To be a follower of Jesus, we must live for him like adopting an entirely new lifestyle. A modern equivalent would be something like becoming vegan, to use one example. Our faith and our prayers must be like that of the persistent old widow. In the violent world in which we live, living out our Christian faith is becoming ever more difficult in the face of so much godless behavior. On second thought, I can think of at least one bogus god here in modern times, and that is money and the pursuit of profit and materialism. The USA has another bogus god that it has yet to deal with, let alone repent of – militarism. But that will be the topic of another weekly bible study or commentary some other time.

In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.” I will voluntarily make a little confession right here concerning this. Decades ago, when I was a much younger man, I was similar to the judge in Jesus’ story. I was in sales back in the days before the internet, from the mid-1970’s to the early ’80s. Since I grew up in foster care I had no family ties, so staying on the road selling and making money was all I lived for. I had no wife and didn’t want one. I didn’t own any property, but I always drove a luxury car, Cadillac’s and Oldsmobile’s were my favorites. And I always had plenty of cash and nearly always carried a loaded gun, though I thankfully (in retrospect) never got the chance to use it. Sadly, today there are more of these kinds of people than ever before. Although I have long since repented of this behavior and surrendered control of my life to Christ, I find myself very much in the minority today as I look around me. The ugly truth is that so many people have stopped caring – excluding themselves – that the world has begun to devolve into chaos. When that happens it will be every man/woman to themselves, and pandemonium will ensue. That’s why I started stockpiling nonperishable food and fresh water in my apartment quite a while back, or at least as much as I can fit in here. The exact amount is classified info. Those who are not already doing so should consider the same.

“…there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary…” The one true God Almighty, the author of his Word that we study weekly as a group, stands for justice and fairness (see Exodus 21 and 22). For any of us to be anything less, or to otherwise mistreat, assault or steal from others, is ungodly behavior, or more accurately Satanic behavior. Like the old song goes, “You Have to Serve Somebody” (Bob Dylan, circa mid-1970’s). In the end it will be good or evil, the light or the darkness. There are no other choices, and anyone who says otherwise is trying to deceive or mislead you! Put those people out of your life permanently! But if we seek God continuously, which can only be done through his Son Jesus Christ, our prayers will be answered and our needs met. So, we are to remain in a constant state of prayer inasmuch as it is possible. The main caveat here is that God may not always give us what we want, but he always supplies our needs. Food to eat, a home to live in, health and well-being are the basics of life. God will provide us all those things provided we live our lives for him rather than for ourselves. After those necessities I would add education, communication and transportation, all of which are self-explanatory. Anything more than this may or may not be granted in prayer, it depends. God does not grant every wish all of the time!

And will God not bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” If the unjust judge granted the widow her wish after her repeated pleadings, how much more will God grant our requests that are made through persistent prayer? This is why prayers are so vitally important! We can’t have a relationship with Jesus without communication, and prayers are the way we communicate. But today there are many people who don’t do this, or who have stopped, and I think Jesus already knew that. Otherwise, why would he have asked, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” When Jesus does return, will there be anyone left to greet him? So help me and by the grace of God, I will be there if I am still living, so there’s one. Would anybody else like to be there besides myself? You know, if we were only to lift up one another in prayer nearly continuously, there’s no telling how much we could accomplish as a united people! And God created us to live in unity with each other, not to be in competition with one another. On that thought, let’s move on to part 2 of today’s biblical study starting at verse 9.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 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.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.’” (Luke 18, verses 9-14)

To those people who thought they didn’t need God or other people and who felt no need for repentance from their sins, this latest parable was directed at them. There were some in the crowd that surrounded Jesus and the Twelve everywhere they went just like there are today, except that today there are far more of them, those who love evil more than good. Their end will be the fires of hell, and sadly they either don’t or won’t believe it. No amount of preaching or reasoning will persuade them to alter their course. In some churches we find the exact opposite – people who are so far up in the clouds from a Spiritual standpoint that they can’t do any earthly good. Those are the modern-day Pharisees, except today we call them ‘holier-than-thou’s’ and ‘religious conservatives’, among other things I can’t print here. “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.” We cannot have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ unless we first acknowledge our sinful nature. In much the same way as people in treatment for addictions need to admit they have a problem before they can be helped, so it is with coming to the cross of Christ. Have mercy on us, Lord Jesus. We are all sinners. Questions of degree, or if any one sin is greater than another, are completely besides the point. We’re all very sorry for what we’ve done, Lord, no matter what it is.

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Notice that the Pharisee tithed 10%, just like the Bible says in what we now call the Old Testament. In modern times this has been incorporated into our church services, particularly where the “prosperity gospel” is concerned. I stopped watching ‘television evangelists’ after the 4th Blood Moon and the Shemitah year came and went without incident back in 2015. Instead of getting wrapped up in all that, let us humble ourselves and curtail our high and mighty attitudes. David the psalmist wrote, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.” So Jesus, through this parable, was echoing the words of his ancestor, King David of Jerusalem. It is vitally important that we maintain this attitude of humility in our relationships, first with Christ and 2nd with everyone else. Let’s all spend the next week working on that as a way to become more humble and compassionate people before God. And next week we’ll be analyzing part 2 of Luke chapter 18.

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